Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Monday, June 9, 2008

Spring concerts

It was a tradition when I was growing up that there were spring concerts -- notice the word "concerts" is plural. Yes there were several.

I know somewhere in our boxes there are pictures of me playing or singing in various spring concerts.

In Runnemede, spring concerts were as much a tradition as Christmas concerts. In grade school I was in the school choir. I learned so many "show" tunes -- it seems that's what we sang, mostly.

Why am I bringing this up now? Well, I was watching South Pacific -- or two minutes of it -- a few days ago, and it reminded me of those grade school spring concerts. I remember singing songs like Once in Love with Amy, Big D, Old Man River, and Oh, what a beautiful morning.

The time frame is a little fuzzy, though. Did I sing those songs in grade school or high school? In grade school we practiced in Mrs. Renseller's classroom because it had a piano and because the doors which divided her room from Miss Charmin's room could be opened so that the "choir" of 60 children could all fit in the desks in those two classrooms. Mr. Renseller was a great choir leader. So patient with us and our young voices. There were actually two chorus groups -- the really young children, grades 1 through 4, and then the older children, grades 5 through 8.

I don't recall who attended the grade school spring concert nor where it was held, probably in the gymnasium with folding chairs for the attendees to sit upon.

Practice for the spring concert started right after Christmas. And we didn't just sing "show" tunes. I recall singing This old house (By Stuart Hamblem), Climb Every Mountain (well taht's a "show" tune), Amazing Grace, Battle Hymn of the Republic (before the Mormon Tabernacle Choir made it popular), and various southern spirituals. At Christmas we sang mostly religious songs, but that's a tale for another day.

When I went to high school, I continued singing in the school choir. I was in the full choir, the women's chorus, and the orchestra. All three of these groups had a part in the spring concert for the high school. It was an exciting evening for me. I loved it. I loved it until....

When Alan came into my life, that spring of 1960, I didn't want to go to the spring concert as a participant. I wanted to be in the audience with my sweetheart. Well, that didn't happen. However, I didn't show up the night of the concert. Alan and I did something else, and I just didn't go to the concert. I felt so guilty -- and I should have -- not that I had a great voice or was a great violinist -- but my "part" was missing.

The next day, the instrumental music teacher and voice teacher both asked me where I was. I told them I wasn't able to make it -- WHY? I didn't want to tell them that I was playing miniature golf with Alan, so I said I just couldn't get there. (Like it was a 10 minute walk to the school). Neither of those teachers were pleased, but didn't drop me from any of the school music groups.

My senior year (1960-61) before each concert, the teachers would check with me to make sure I was going to attend -- it sort of became a joke to them to make sure they didn't waste the space I took up on stage if they didn't have to.

One other annual spring concert was the recital given at the Hegeman School of Music where I studied piano, organ, violin, and music theory. I had to prepare for my piano recital, my organ recital, and the orchestra concert after all the students presented their solo numbers.

Spring was a busy time in the area of music in Runnemede, and I loved it.

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