Sunday, February 25, 2007


From ages eight to twelve, I was sent to an Orff music camp for one week each summer. The camp was run by the Sisters of Saint Joseph at their motherhouse -- about an hour outside of the city. At camp, we spent about half the day swimming and the other half under the tutelage of Sister Victoria, who taught music and dance. At night we would have hikes, campfires and sing-alongs. For me, Orff camp was a seven day preview of heaven.

What's that??? Nuns, swimming and music classes -- you thought that was heaven! Well, yes. To this day, I still believe swimming is the best way to spend a hot summer day. Making music and dancing is the best way to spend ANY night or day. Also, I liked nuns. Generally speaking, they tended to be passionate about whichever subject they spent their lives teaching and studying. And the Sisters at camp seemed to be truly following a vocation and quite happy. They also gave us a degree of autonomy not experienced at home. It was bliss!

Except that I was pretty sure Sister Victoria didn't think much of my abilities. She always told me I wasn't singing loud enough, she always made me play the glockenspiel instead of the xylophone AND for dancing she always paired me up with the boy everyone else picked on.

I wanted to play the xylophone so badly. The xylophonists played the melody of each song. Everyone played the xylophone except for a few kids who couldn't learn notes and had to play the tamborine and Kevin, who took music lessons year round and got to play drums. Oh, and me -- I always had to play the glockenspiel. The worst part was she would tease me ... I would pick an alto xylophone and she would leave me there for a couple of days. Then she would make me switch with whichever kid got stuck with it. She would spend a couple of minutes teaching me the notes to the harmony lines of each song and there I was once again ... the Great Glockenspiel Girl.

But I recently had a strange epiphany about Sister Victoria's treatment of me. She didn't put me on the glockenspiel because she thought I was incapable of playing the notes on the xylophone -- she put me there because I could play the harmony without being distracted by the melody while singing the song, loudly. She made me dance with the awkward boy every year because I never picked on him. She knew she could depend on me -- but being a good nun she never complimented me for doing what I was supposed to be doing.

And to this day, although I still enjoy a jazz combo with a xylophonist -- it doesn't compare with the sudden glee I experience upon hearing the chime of the glockenspiel. Donovan recently played Arcade Fire for me. The use the glock in several of their songs, which inspired this post. Jimi Hendrix used it in "Little Wing". If you listen carefully you can hear those clear chimes every now and then.

They are both beautiful and surprising.


Liza said...

Lucky you. I would go to family night and be so jealous of you and Nora; I couldn't wait until I was old enough to go to Orf. The glockenspiel was what I looked forward to. I loved the word. But the year I was supposed to go, Great-Grandma Welch died, and the next year they didn't have it. I missed out. Pout.

Meander said...

I had to play the glockenspiel too. And! I didn't shower the whole week at camp because of said autonomy. The night of the big show all I did was scratch many itches on my legs due to my uncleanliness.

La Sirena said...

Liza ... I am very sorry for your tragedy of missing camp. Glockenspiel IS a great word.

Meander .... I think I only ever showered the year I was 12.

It was part of what made it awesome -- there you are, performing in your best summer dress COMPLETELY FILTHY.