This fall I’m going to be leading and playing piano for children’s music at church. They sing simple little ditties accompanied by gestures. Until last week at our late music director Catherine’s funeral, I hadn’t seen it done, and I didn’t know any of the songs. I struggled to find a key that fit the kids’ monotone voices, and people kept telling me to go faster.
Catherine had eight children and oodles of grandchildren, but it’s all foreign to me. All the kids and their parents know the songs from having gone to religious education classes, but I have to learn them from sheet music. I’m going to be the only one who doesn’t know the songs already because I wasn’t part of that world. I could have taught religious education classes and joined that world, but I didn’t because I didn’t know anything about children, and I was too busy singing with the adults. When I was a kid, we sang songs like “Holy God, We Praise They Name,” not “The Ducks Go Quack, Quack, Quack,” complete with wing-flapping. Wish me luck.
This brings back the time when I sang at a birthday party for a friend’s 5-year-old son and I bought this Raffi book and did my best to cram the songs because I didn’t know any kid songs then either. They wanted the same songs over and over, and they sat so close, touching me and my guitar, that I couldn’t wait to get away. I’m not used to having children invading my space. It was one of the hardest gigs I ever did.
It’s just another side-effect of not having children. You don’t know the songs. And the kids think you’re an idiot.