Raffi: a pacing guide for elementary Christmas spirit

It has been an odd week of traveling and sickness coupled with all the usual Christmas duties.
I still am not quite sure how people have more than one job… I started and finished Hannah Coulter this week for my bedtime reading, and it seems, in Wendell Berry’s world of fiction, that an entire life can be lived quite fruitfully on several acres and nothing more doing than maintaining the farm and a couple kids. Berry doesn’t even ever once mention trips to Branson or sinus infections and earaches.

I already agreed with this sort of lifestyle—the stay on the farm one—so I must be living more than one life’s worth right now. The Christmas spirit isn’t exactly wearing on me but I am feeling some Christmas spirit fatigue. It’s a good thing I love Raffi—that’s all I can say. Burl Ives, though pleasant, has a certain je ne sais quoi that feels irritating after a few go-rounds of Holly Jolly Christmas. Come to think of it, 99% of Christmas albums begin to grate after so long. I can only imagine working at a department store from October 31st until Christmas. But I guess no one is forcing you to sing along while you stock the shelves.

In elementary music room purgatory we force participants to sing and march and play to holiday tunes non-stop, mostly because I am unprepared and possibly unqualified to hand out worksheets. I have an ever-present fear of not being fun and engaging, I suppose. I never liked the music theory book that accompanied my childhood piano lessons. I dreaded the homework part, never quite memorizing the lines and spaces and key signatures. I’m afraid of worksheets that are just busy-work and I don’t think there’s enough time in the world to grade them. I wish I had more discipline. Maybe this is why I can’t convince myself I’m the permanent person for the job.

Raffi—dear Raffi! The timeless song-singer and beloved Egyptian Canadian from my childhood. We’ve brought egg shakers and rhythm sticks and square dancing to the party. If he only knew the revival we’ve brought to his 1982 Christmas album forty years hence. I’ve found a thousand ways to incorporate all the songs into my every day doings, so much so that I’m contemplating making videos to document if it isn’t copyright infringement. It’ll be one of those to-dos on my get-to-eventually list.

Another thing that breaks up the Christmas music—ahem, monotony—are some fun activities I’ve found by perusing a YouTube channel made by one Mr. Delgaudio. He has taken some old poems and songs and worked them into arrangements and games with some Orff instrumentation. Favorites right now Hej, Tomtegubbar and Mincemeat Pie. It feels right to hang onto the shirttails of a real music teacher when I am fresh out of ideas.

The kids performed on stage last weekend. It wasn’t the best time because one was on medicine, one needed to be, and another was just beginning to come down with something. We didn’t even practice Jingle Bells until right before the show, so our singers were unprepared and in the wrong key, but FC and GK thought it was amazing fun to be on stage with the brothers. And Jubal got to play his Bela Fleck-Jerry Douglas tune on dobro, which was beautiful.
Each time we do something new, we gain experience. We meet the neatest people, luthiers, musicians, other families. Plus, there were some amazing youth groups on stage which blew us all away and makes the kids want to up their ante each year.

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