THE SCHOOL CONCERT
It was in 1947 when I took part in Mater Dei’s Christmas ‘Children’s Hour’. I was 10 years old and I had just started my schooling in Mater Dei. The ‘concert’ was neither a musical nor the kind of drama where students performed under stage lights in front of colourful backdrops. Instead, it was held in the school’s courtyard, and it was an occasion for students to show off their (mostly singing) talents before an audience of their teachers and peers.
Our classroom teacher, Miss Zita, got some of her students to recite a poem or sing a light-hearted Konkani song. I offered to sing one of three songs. My favourite song was Don’t Fence Me In, but Miss Zita did not go for it because the lyrics would be somewhat foreign to kids from the East. I then thought of singing A Tisket, a Tasket, … a brown and yellow basket…”, but there was one line in the lyrics that I didn’t know, and mumbling some garbled words was not acceptable. So I sang Moonlight Bay.
Now, I was told to strut along the small stage, sway my body and gently wave my arms to add dramatic effect as I sang” We were sailing along, down Moonlight Bay. We could hear the voices singing, they seemed to say…”. Up to this point, I was doing very well. But it was the next line “You have stolen my heart, now don’t go away…” that got me flustered. During the rehearsal, I was directed to simultaneously put my left foot forward, tilt my head to the left, place my right hand against my chest, extend my left arm towards any girl in the front row, and sing the line with passion.
At the concert, I went through the sequence flawlessly except for one glitch; there were no girls in the front row. Instead, all the seats in the front row were taken up by the school’s teachers with Principal Lobo and Mrs. Lobo in the middle. Mrs. Lobo was an attractive well-dressed woman, so I stretched out my left hand towards her and sang “you have stolen my heart, now don’t go away…”. The teachers and students all broke out into spontaneous laughter, and applauded loudly as I concluded with “as we sang love song, sweet song, down Moonlight Bay”. For a brief moment, I thought that I was cut out to be a great singer until Miss Zita congratulated me with a pat on the shoulder and told me the real reason for the applause.
This episode did not, however, discourage me from singing again. I now sing pretty well in my church choir, but I still seem to have the ability to make some notable gaffs when singing the psalm on my own.