I suppose all mothers-of-teenagers know in their hearts about Joyce Nicholson’s thesis in her book “The Heartache of Motherhood”. Love is something that is passed down through the generations, not up. Yes, we love our parents, and yes, our children love us. But we never love our parents quite as much as we love our kids, and our kids never love us as much as we love them, or as much as they will love their kids. Such is Mother Nature’s way of making sure the generations move forwards instead of back.
All that being said, there are times in your life when motherhood is a pure joy, and I’m about to review one of them right now. Recently my daughter, Kerridwen (“Kezza”) West was chosen as one of the MCs for the Central Coast Schools Showcase, 2010, and she and another equally self-possessed and confident young lady MCed the Thursday performance, another couple having been chosen for the Friday.
On the way to the venue, a flying fox fell out of the sky and landed on the Pacific Highway almost at my daughter’s feet. At that early hour of the evening there is a lot of traffic around, and many cars went over the poor flying fox as it struggled. At first it tried to haul itself up on its wings as cars rolled over it, then it gave up and lay on the ground twitching as more cars rolled over it. When there was finally a break in the traffic, it was picked up, by gentle human hands and seemed to be dead, or almost dead. It was not moving. Then slowly, movement came back to one wing, then the other, then its legs. In ten minutes or so, it was well enough to clamber over Kezza and down her back, then up a nearby tree.
There is something special about having a wild animal, especially something as timid as a flying fox, meet your eyes and make real contact for a long moment. Before Kezza arrived at the venue, she was already euphoric from the closeness of this little spirit whose life she helped save, and afterwards the night only got better.
Both girls MCing were unflappable, well-turned-out, and spoke clearly. They were a delight to watch, what with how poised and well-prepared they were. But it’s not really fair to review one’s own offspring – perhaps I should review the actual creative performers?
Let me just say that the up-coming generation on the Central Coast is loaded with talent. Us oldies can sleep easy, knowing that at least some of us have passed or will pass the baton on to capable, creative and inspiring young people.
Before the performance, some members of two of the dance troupes were wandering around in the audience and I could have sworn I saw a Rapunzel: a girl in a similar costume to the dancers doing a number from Grease (see below) but with a tangled wig of long hair that ended in a rope to her ankles, but there was no act later which contained Rapunzel. My companion also maintains that a Peter Pan was also spotted, but again, no act involving Peter Pan. One person I was slightly surprised not to spot was the Liberal Chris Holstein, whom I know enjoys evenings like this.
I have been to a lot of live performances in my time, and it never ceases to amuse me how easy it is to tell bands that are conducted by a conductor from bands that are conducted by a music teacher. The evening was opened by the Gosford High School band playing an interesting brass rendition of “House of the Rising Sun”, a perfect opening piece, conducted by a delightful woman whose conducting was all about her hands. Conductors as diverse as Georg Tintner and Eugene Goossens conduct with their whole bodies, in an elaborate dance where every part of their energy and aura becomes a part of the music. This band’s conductor conducted purely with her hands – and the band turned on a capable performance that had many of us tapping our feet.
The next really stand-out act for me was the Primary Dance troupe from Terrigal Public School, wearing colourful pilot outfits and dancing a cheekily choreographed number to “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”, assembling themselves into a Human Aeroplane in the last seconds of the dance. It was patently obvious that every single one of those kids was having the time of their lives, and loving every minute of it. I and my companion were enchanted, and it was one of the acts my daughter mentioned later, after she came offstage.
One of the performers giving us their own original work was Jessica Beazley from BWSC Umina, who performed her guitar-accompanied song “Twice as Fast”. I enjoyed her performing skills, and I thought the song was very well-written and perceptive.
Then there were some brilliant covers as well, including the very next act, Jake Brennan, Matt Lynch and Tom Beasley from Erina High School performing “Hey Ya”. they got everyone in the place involved, tapping feet and even some of us singing along under their spirited performance.
Another stand-out act, and one where the practising magician in me was stirred, was Drumbala, a collaboration between Woy Woy South and Brisbania Public Schools, performing a drumming number called “Mix It Up”. We were fronted with a fantastic bunch of kids, flanked on their left – our right – by a male teacher and on the other side by a female teacher. I know a little about Shamanic work and about Magic and about Magical drumming, and the male teacher was gathering the energies that the drummers raised, and focussing it, and directing it. This worked as wonderfully entertaining musical drumming – it also worked as an act of Magic, raising the energy levels of everyone present and offering healing to anyone who heard it who might have needed it. I take my hat off to that guy: as a drummer, as a conductor/director and as a Magician, he performed superbly, filling all the different hats he was wearing just wonderfully.
Then Naomi Jones, a very talented violinist from Kincumber High School, performed a spirited version of Hot Canary, with a light accompaniment that enhanced rather than competed with her talents. Almost the whole number was played in the higher registers with an almost constant use of harmonics. Her violin was perfectly tuned (a rarity outside professional circles) and had a lovely mellow tone – it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that it was either a very expensive instrument or an inherited one, it had such a nice “voice”. I found myself watching the dancing of her left-hand fingers on the violin the whole time: her long, slender hands were as magnificent to watch as the sounds they produced were to hear. She will be a performer to watch: she also knew how to work an audience, using timing perfectly.
The Year Nine Dance Troupe from Gosford High School transported us right back to my youth by wearing the style of clothing I actually loved (and still do), and by giving us a happy, summery dance-routine from “Grease”. Olivia would have loved it. When I was not a whole lot older than they are, I used to volunteer at Sydney’s 2MBS-FM, where I and Olivia Newton-John’s late father, Bryn, once slow-waltzed up and down two floors of a staircase with me to hot jazz being presented on-air by Dick Garner; during this number I had quite separate memories of father and daughter swirling around me, plus the feel of skirts swinging around my legs as my younger self danced, and I became quite weepy.
After interval, the Concert Band of Narara Valley High School came on with another upbeat number, followed by sisters Emma and Natasha Bass from the same school, who dealt with a production hiccup at the beginning of their number with professional aplomb and sang beautifully once they got going.
The Lamb Soups, a rock group based at my daughter’s school – The Entrance Campus – turned on a power-packed number for us all. Turns out that, perhaps not surprisingly, my daughter knew the group as a whole and knew one or two of them quite well. I honestly hope they stay together and keep performing – they have something special.
Probably my favourite act of the night was little Khyana Shilston from Niagara Park Public School. I knew something special was about to happen the moment the roadies brought a harp onstage – I love harps above all other instruments. Then this exquisite young girl came on, and sang “Courtyard Lullabye” in a crisp, clean, clear voice, accompanying herself on the harp – my heart nearly broke from the beauty. Well done, Khyana – never stop playing and singing, and never stop believing in yourself.
The Primary Dance troupe from Tuggerah Public School gave us an “authentic market experience” with their spirited rendition of Mumbai Markets, a fun Bollywood number involving pots and pitchers, singing and dancing. The sorts of markets I go to are nowhere near as much fun. I was delighted to see that in this dance troupe more than in any of the others, there were kids of all shapes and sizes – that really pleased me.
Another stand-out act was Jesse O’Neil-Hutchins from Kincumber High School, just him and his guitar, and an interesting, well-performed song called “Hollow Breathing”. His guitar-playing in particular was something special – we’ll have another Eric Clapton on the Coast if we’re not careful!
And who could forget the Highland Warriors from Lisarow Public Schoool? Precision Scottish dancing combined with great authentic outfits detailed right down to the shoelaces, and a touch of humour – they are a great bunch of kids.
There were many other acts that night – these are just the ones I particularly remembered. I had a fantastic time as an anonymous member of the audience. Kezza publicly thanked Peter Crousen for putting her forward for the MCing job – I have to thank him, too, and her for requiring transport, which meant I had to attend the event which otherwise I might not even have found out about until afterwards. It was a great night, and I have nothing but praise for the way the performing arts are being taught on the Coast, and how much our kids enjoyed themselves, and what great adults they are obviously in the process of becoming.