It’s End-Of-Year Concert time at Pelican Primary School so I am busy working with each class to prepare an item. With one class I offered them a choice- we could either learn a song by Green Day, or we could write a song together. They chose to write a song together (though the following week told me that, really, this has been their teacher’s choice, and they had really wanted to do the Green Day song. But by then it was too late, our song was written).
The song we’ve written is a classic rock song called Long Summer Holiday. It has two verses, two pre-chorus ‘ramps’ that build up our energy, a rockin’ out chorus that most of us need to sing in a seventies falsetto, and a raging guitar solo in the instrumental break.
The best thing is, it’s going to be an air guitar solo. This started out as a joke, a bit of hamming up by one of the students. But then I thought, why not? It will be vocal improvising, it will be theatrical, and it will be a fabulously original piece of content in the concert.
Yesterday, we made a rough recording of the song so that they could keep the CD in their classroom and start working on some staging ideas (backing singers, drum kits, dancers, etc). I recorded the air guitar solos too. Two boys wanted to have a try, so I got them to take it in turns. I was surprised by how well it worked (oh ye of little faith, G) – they had an excellent feel for the kind of melodic and rhythmic motifs that could be used, they both ended up on their knees, and they got the hang of tag-teaming the solos so that there were no gaps in between.
Go home and google ‘air guitar’ I suggested at the end of the class. “I bet you’ll be able to find some great clips of people…. watch what they do with their hands and face and body… and listen to how they use their voice.” Study these to get more ideas, I suggested to the boys.
Without a doubt though, the real enthusiasm for this rock song project came about when their teacher suggested they could dress up, put gel in their hair, make mohawks, etc. That’s when they started to grab hold of the project with both hands.
I’m really delighted with this air guitar thing. Of course, it could all go horribly wrong. Pelican students aren’t known for their ability to recognise the fine line between funny performance and just being silly (‘being giddy’, my mother used to call it, that level of giggling silliness that kids get into and have difficulty breaking out of). So I need to be quite stern and serious, to make sure they instill it with some performance discipline so that they don’t crack up laughing when they are in front of their peers, and some strong musical qualities.
I think they’ll get there. The two boys who’ve volunteered are pretty committed to the whole idea, with one following up on the google idea the moment he got home.