Takai Chisaii

Last weekend was the school cultural festival or takai chisaii and the kids have been totally excited about it for ages.

A couple of months ago I was asked to sing at the festival and I laughed and agreed. I didn’t really think about it again til a couple of weeks ago when my teacher asked me if I was practicing.

Practicing? I hadn’t even chosen a song yet!

I wanted to sing something the kids would know, so I toyed with Lady Gaga for a while. Then I realised that I can’t sing to save myself so trying something that difficult would be shooting myself in the foot.

Eventually I went with Hey Jude by The Beatles, on the basis that it was a simple tune and the kids would likely know the “na na na na na” bit. I chose the Across the Universe version though, cos it’s about three minutes shorter.

I practiced a few times at home, then had an actual rehearsal on the Friday. It was then that I realised that I would be standing on a stage with a microphone in hand and the WHOLE SCHOOL WOULD BE WATCHING ME.

I freaked out a little bit.

The next morning, having accidentally consumed a few too many drinks the night before (it was the end of the world, you see), I rocked up to school with a feeling of dread.

I was singing at 10.30 and I was glad to be earlyish in the day but really, really not looking forward to it.

I was distracted for a while by an excellent clarinet and piano player who played for quite a long time, and a couple of students who played instruments, then we had a short break. After the break though, the terror was back.

They stuck me backstage with the kids who were on in the same section and I walked out the back door and tried to climb the fence. Luckily for my reputation, the fence was too high and I found myself obliged to step on stage when they announced me.

Now picture me, shaking all over, a little more hungover than I really should have been, and suddenly finding a huge lump in my throat. There was no way I was going to get all the way to the front of the stage, let alone through a whole song.

To my total amazement, as soon as I stepped out from behind the curtain, my kids exploded. They were cheering and whooping and yelling my name. I was still utterly terrified, but I was laughing as well.

They shut up a bit when the music started but one of my ninth grade classes got into the swaying arms almost immediately, and the rest of the kids joined in pretty quickly with clapping.

I totally fudged the song, as I thought I might, but to my surprise, it didn’t matter at all. The kids didn’t notice and I just kept singing and wiggling around on stage.

When I finished, the kids went ballistic again and I managed an awkward sort of bow before fleeing the stage.

I don’t even remember getting back to my seat cos I was on such a high. Luckily we had a bit of a break then, and a few groups of my kids came and yelled at me in Japanese, or sang bits of Hey Jude and did thumbs up (cos that’s how we communicate).

Since my song was over, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the day, and I really seriously enjoyed it.

These kids are pretty amazing. There were singers, comedians, hip hop dancers, a rock band, orchestras, a karate kid… They are so dedicated to whatever it is they do, and its really awesome to see what they can do.

During our lunch break, we had udon (of course), oden and coffee and the kids came up and talked to us and one of the teachers flew a model plane in the playground and the parents all wanted to come and have a look at me (I’m like a school pet, I think).

After lunch was the chorus competition. I have been hearing the kids practicing around school for a few weeks now and it was really awesome to see it all come together. Some of my favourite kids were conductors for their classes and they were really super professional.

9 nen 1 kumi won the competition, and they were so so stoked about it!

The final part of the day was the whole school getting together to sing Jump Up! It was entirely in Japanese except for the random times they shouted “jump up!” So great.

I had been really dubious about spending a Saturday at school, but I was so happy I went along and got involved. The kids put on such a great show and, more importantly, were so supportive of my rubbish performance I couldn’t help but love them.

As a side note, I went out and did karaoke with some friends that night and one of them asked me to sing Hey Jude. He won’t make that mistake again.

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