Music Instruction 101 - Teacher Speaks
Blog 025 - 30 August 2012


When I was in standard 2 (grade 4) way back 1956, my classroom music teacher, Mrs Trichardt, may have alluded to me having prospects as a vocalist. That is a vague recollection. On the other hand, "do rah me ...", "fyniculee fynicula ..." (phoenetic spelling), "In Green Vienna's Woods", and "Men of Harlech", are there engraved in tablets of stone. So while those memories remain fresh, Mrs Trichardt's allusion, remained an illusion.

After completing my Primary School education at the Allanridge Primary School, I returned as a boarder to the place I commenced my school career, Grey College, in Bloemfontein. There I was drafted into the school choir, and so also took part in a number of eisteddfods. Other than that we trooped down to the City Hall, I do not remember much about these occasions.

I do however have vivid memories of the music teacher. His nick-name was padda, and this was rather appropriate as he was by then in his fifties, somewhat wrinkled, and would plop himself down in front of the choir. Occasionally he would lecture us on the evils of "pop music", always reminding us that a tune that did not have an ending i.e., simply faded away, was not a tune. Without fail, he would always commence his conduction of the choir by not raising his baton. Instead, he would raise his left hand, and then point with his forefinger to a spot on this forehead. Only when he had done that, did the baton come into play. At times, when frustrated by his charges, the pointing would degenerate into him stabbing his forehead with his finger several times.

When my sister-in-law, Cathy Owens, shared one of Clínica do Deficiente Musical's Facebook photographs, I was immediately reminded of padda, his forefinger, and the point on his forehead, You can view the photograph here. It is titled, When Teacher Speaks. When I first saw the score (complete piece of music), it said one thing, forefinger, and a score written by padda himself. That said, and to be fair to padda, he also wrote the score for the school anthem, which in turn was penned by the guy who wrote Die Stem van Suid Afrika.

Recently I thought I should test Mrs Trichardt's allusion, and volunteered my services to the All Saint's Church Choir. When I finally plucked up enough courage to go to a practice, it was not that bad. When I attended my second practice, it did not go that well, more specifically when the choir was expected to read music beyond padda's score. I simply did not know when I was supposed to stop, and then start singing again, other than at the beginning and the end of the piece. It was then that I realised, I would have to continue to sing for my own pleasure!

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