Saturday, September 30, 2006

Choir and Band

We have gotten a few mentions in other categories about choir. We probably have a lot of stories to share about choir and band...particularly the trips. So we are creating this special category just for those stories.

Sula Class of 68: If I had any musical talent at all, I surely would have become a professional musician. From the time I could walk, it was all about pop music in my family. My father played trombone, trumpet, piano, ocarina and 3 different kinds of harmonica. My mother played piano, organ, clarinet. My grandmother played piano and organ. My uncle played drums. Everyone sang-- in harmony always and in perfect pitch. So it would have been a source of family shame had I not been in the band or choir in school. What an amazing group of talented and dedicated music teachers we had. And such colorful personalities too.

Mr. John "Music Man" Henley started a new program in 6th grade where you could take band lessons. Since my mother still had her clarinet from her school band days, I chose that. Bad choice because I was asthmatic and buck-toothed with heavy braces to boot. Something to bang on would have been more appropriate. I was taking piano lessons too and favored that over the clarinet. At least the piano doesn't stink the more you play it. And that spit valve thingy-- so gross! I was lazy about practicing both. But the more you practiced the clarinet the nastier those reeds got and you had to change them. Tish Harrison was first chair on clarinet. I would stop by her house after school sometimes hoping her aura might rub off on me so I wouldn't have to practice.

One Monday morning I got to school and realized I didn't have my instrument. I figured I must have left it at home. In band practice, Mr. Henley started a tune but then stopped the whole class and from his podium pointed at me with his baton and asked why I wasn't playing. You know when you are 12 years old, fat with a mouth full of braces, things like that are why God endows children with strong bladders. My shame and humiliation was only beginning.
"I left my clarinet at home."
Mr. Henley: "Really? Are you sure about that?"
On the verge of an asthma attack, I whispered "Yes, sir."
Mr. Henley: "Well tell me something. Did you practice this weekend?"
Like a cheerful leaking tire -- "Yes, sir" (my mind was racing -- did I? Hell no you didn't, you never do -- well I can't remember-- I know I practiced one weekend one time - say anything, something).
Mr. Henley: "About how long would you say you practiced, how many hours this weekend?"
At this point I was just a robot saying anything just to get him to shut up and leave me alone. The whole band was staring at me watching the word volley between us like a tennis match, waiting for the smashing blow.
"I don't know, I guess about 4 hours."
Mr. Henley: "Are you sure it was that much- 4 hours?"
"I think so, yeah, about 3-4 hours...2 on Saturday and 1-2 on Sunday."
Mr. Henley: "Would that have been Sunday afternoon or night?"
(I prayed: LORD PLEASE DELIVER ME!)
"uh...Sunday night."

Finally I get delivered -- to the chopping block: hog tied, tarred, feathered and strung up to endure deafening jeering and hooting from all the band members.
Mr. Henley reached under the podium and held up my clarinet case and smiled like mule in a briar patch: "Well, Sula-- that must have been a long 4 hours of a practice -- without your instrument -- because it's been sitting in my office all weekend."
I always liked Mr. Henley and I thought what he did was pretty funny-- many years later. It wasn't because of this incident that I didn't join band the next year but Mr. Henley was not my favorite teacher! Things seem to go the way they should -- because not being in the band gave me the chance to take piano lessons from a delightful, kind (true) lady-- Katherine Leftwich -- and to be in the choir with A.F. Thomas-- and that wonderful, talented music man provided me with greatest experiences of all my school years and I still thank him for the lasting impression 40 years later. I never had talent but due to the great music teachers in Forrest City, along with talented family members, I learned the spiritual value of the pure joy and happiness of musical expression.

Bogie Class of 62: I recall a great choir trip to Hot Springs for one of the competitions in which we were so fortunate to be able to participate. When I was a sophomore, I was in choir with Danny Harrelson, Stevie Stevens, Booger Montgomery and Jim Finch, all seniors.
Our trip was uneventful until we had been at the motel for a couple of hours. Then, there were several of us girls that got a treat when we walked into our rooms and found all our clothing hanging in the shower with the hot water running full blast! The room was filled with steam, our eyes were burning and we couldn't see anything! Of course we turned off the hot water only to discove our clothes soaking from the steam--we had to just leave them hanging--some of the wrinkles actually fell out and we were able to wear everything without too much ironing.
Some of us went walking around the motel, went into some of the other girls rooms and gathered them up to come out for a walk. A walk, just a walk is all we wanted to do! Some of the guys had different ideas! Oh they let us walk alright--we could hear them calling, "Hey what'y'all doin?" We went over toward the sound of the voices--right in front of their rooms--in the doorway--Danny Harrelson and Stevie Stevens in their skivies!! You can imagine the silliest girls in the whole world--and we were them! You could hear the "tee-hee's" for a mile! Everyone got a kick out of it and we were on cloud nine--just to think, the guys would give us such a treat!! I loved choir!

Butch Class of 60: Bogie,That was a terrific choir story. I was on that trip, too. Frankly, I'm crushed you don't remember me. I was a tenor. The Mustang choir was so big that it took two Greyhound buses to get us to the festival. When the bus pulled out of the bus station, I remember Gloria Fields, whose father was a Church of God pastor and totally opposed to any kind of makeup on women, pulling out the lipstick and eye shadow and getting the "look" for the trip to Hot Springs.

We stayed at Wright's Motel. We must have occupied every room. It was a typical motor court of the 1940-50's period. The driveway was a U-shape with the connected rooms arranged around the outside of the U and a raised swimming pool in the middle. I think there must have been at least 6 kids staying in each room. Mr. Thomas was in a room near the entry in a vain attempt to keep an eye on all of us.

Our primary song for the competition was "Hallelujah Chorus." We always really nailed that number. With Patsy Pettus and Barbara Trimm leading a great soprano section, it was really stirring. We got a standing ovation from the hundreds of other choir members sitting in the audience. We were really proud of ourselves.

Now, back to the fun and games. I have a lot of memories of some really fun and funny happenings on that trip. I DON'T remember the steamy episode or the skivvies incident. Both sound hilarious. There was a lot of sneaking back and forth with guys trying to sneak into girls rooms. Mr. Thomas got very little rest, much less sleep. There was a bakery down the street where a lot of kids went during the trip for extra goodies. Late one night, a bunch of us (me, Mike Deaderick, Danny Harrelson, Stevie Stevens, and several others) went to the bakery and got big plastic bags full of day-old donuts, creme-filled stuff and other goodies for give-away prices.

We all went back to, I don't remember, probably my room. We ate that sweet, gooey stuff till we were sick of it. Someone threw a chocolate covered donut at a mirror. It stuck there. Another creme-filled donut hit the wall. It stuck there, too. Suddenly, the air was filled with flying pastries. I remember Mike Deaderick throwing a peach-filled donut up at the ceiling fan. The fan splattered the filling around on the wall. The laughter was audible all over the motel. Of course, Mr. Thomas came running. The rooms didn't have a back door. It did have a bathroom window and several guys bailed out of the window. It was my room along with Mike and a couple of others. We had no place to go, so we caught most of the blame.

"Clean this mess up," Mr. Thomas roared. He didn't think it was funny at all. It took a couple of hours to clean up the mess. It also took all of our towels and wash cloths. The motel people wouldn't give us any clean ones. Oh, one more thing. Jimmy Finch was a junior that year. And, are you sure, absolutely certain that Booger was in the choir?

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