Recently in Samuel Category

Sam and Beethoven's Fifth


Sam is in seven dance classes this year. In one of them (ballet) he is dancing to Beethoven's Fifth symphony, the first part of the first movement. Don't ask me how the teachers come up with this stuff.

Recently I was away for several days on a business trip to Evanston. When I left, I heard him toying with the piano and sort of plinking out the beginning of the fifth symphony. Yesterday, as we were getting ready to go to the store, he went to practice piano.

He sat down, and not only did he play the 5th, he played it with arpeggio's, ornamentations and his own additional little pieces. Now, I realize that this is akin to rewriting Shakespeare--I do understand that there's something to the complaint that might come from that. But as far as I'm concerned, I have never seen anything like it and if he wants to go on to rewrite the entire classical canon, I'm going to be right there behind him cheering on.

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Sam and His Dance


The dance competition season is over! We're both relieved and perhaps a little disappointed.

Sam participated in three dances throughout the season--large group tap, large group (line) Musical Theatre, and Line/Large Group/Production Tap. (I don't quite know all the division and it seemed that in each competition the names changed slightly.)

In this last competition Sam danced his very best. What made us so tremendously proud of the entire troupe is that when they did their large-group tap (to the tune of "Bare Necessities") there was a complication. The music stopped in the middle of their routine. This is a bad, but not unprecedented glitch in proceedings. However, what made it worse is that the music picked up again after they had continued their dance for another minute or minute and a half, so they had to finish their routine out of time with the music. And they did--beautifully. There was never a false step or hesitation. They went right on through to the end. Best of all, when listening to the tap sound the entire group was synchronized--not one foot out of step. Needless to say we were very, very proud of the entire team.

The experience has been both stressful and wonderful. During it we have been able to watch Sam bloom as a dancer. And more importantly, we've come to discover Sam as performer. He was following one of the older boys around during his second competition. He followed right up to the time of the dance. The school dance master took Sam aside and told him that he really had to give the boys time to prepare. Sam acknowledged this. Then he later said to me, "I don't understand. I always do better when I have my fans around me." And it is true--piano or dance, he really does much, much better with an audience.

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Third, Fifth, Seventh


Earlier today Sam was practicing Piano--playing an Andante in G. Just as a lark I asked him to play it a third, a fifth, and a seventh lower. To my profound astonishment, he did so without a hitch. And then he played the right hand a third lower and the left hand a fifth lower.

Given that I'm only now coming to terms with all the technical terminology of music theory, I'm blown away that ten year old not only understands it, but is able to interpret and play it.

I'm also extremely gratified to hear him playing The Phantom of the Opera as a cha-cha--very latin rhythm on the left hand ostinato. Really cool. What a constant source of blessing. I'm sure glad that his mother never opted for the easy way out of things.

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Dance Competition


We spent most of Saturday (8:00 am -9:00 pm) at a Dance competition in which Samuel was in three dances. (For those to whom this means anything--two high golds and a silver star.)

In the course of the day, I learned several things. First, I had been dreading this, as who would not--12 or more hours with a half hour break for lunch. And I wound up having a fantastic time. It amazed me what these young people could do, and it gratified me to see so many giving so much of their time and energy to the arts. That was deeply satisfying. Second, I learned how many ways there are to be illiterate. To be honest, I saw a lot of dance (that was rated very highly) that I just didn't "get." The motions seemed hurky-jerky, arms and legs akimbo and in awkward positions, music choice not the greatest, and coherence simply not there. I realize that I am not in the realm of professional choreographers, but I've noticed the same in dances that are professionally choreographed. I watched ballets in which dancers "pas de chat" all over the stage and it just looks like some kind of weird affliction that one might better expect in the medieval ages. I just don't have the vocabulary and grammar of dance clear--I don't understand it and that disturbs me. And so, I conclude that I must spend a good deal of time studying and coming to terms with it.

Finally, I was amazed at the professionalism and caliber of some of the dances. One poor dancer had her music vanish about midway through her dance and she took it all in stride, continuing throughout the entire routine and completing the dance as though nothing had happened. There was one male dancer who took most of the awards for the competition and who looks like he may have a wonderful career before him as a dancer.

But to come back to the first point--it was fantastic to see so many young people celebrating the arts. Even if they did not understand that they were doing so, and even though the majority will not continue in the arts, for them to have this enriching experience so early in life can only be an advantage as they continue on. It is my ardent prayer that each dancer come to know his or her own ability and use it to celebrate the arts in a way that gives God glory.

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Samuel and the "Poor Sock"


Samuel had a lot of change that he wanted to take into Church and give to the poor box. (But first he asked me if the money he placed there was going to go directly to feeding the poor or whether it would be siphoned off so that the poor only got "like 10% of it." I assured him (and I hope it is true) that the money given to the Church goes directly to the purposes indicated.) Anyway, he was putting this money into a large sock to carry it (in the process pretty much destroying the sock. He called me at work to tell me about this plan and said, "The sock weighs 5.2 pounds, so it is worth 10.4 dollars, right?"

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Obama--The View from a Child


The other day while riding home from dance class, the subject of Obama came up and Samuel shared some desultory comment along with a long sigh and the name said almost as an imprecation.

"What wrong with Obama?" I asked him.

"Well, you know," he answered rather defensively.

"No, I don't. Why don't you tell me."

"Obama wants to kill babies." Ah, at last, the problem. In this I could see his staunchly republican mother's hand at work.

I said, "Sometime people are very misled. They think that what they are doing is a good thing for everyone. But they have been deceived by Satan and see and think things that are not real."

"Like mirages. I know."

I continue, "Obama has not yet taken office. We may not judge him in these ways. Additionally, the office of the President (if not the man--although I didn't say this to Samuel) is worthy of respect. We must give him a chance."

"But he wants to kill babies." You can't deny the simple logic of that.

"Is that a reason to dislike him and say bad things about him? Isn't a more appropriate response to pray for him so that God might guide him and prevent some of the things he says he'll do?"

"Oh, yeah."

"So rather than saying bad things about him, what must we do with respect to the man who will become President Obama."

"We must pray for him."

"And what must we pray for in particular?"

"That he not be allowed to kill babies."


Isn't it amazing the way children catch on so quickly? I certainly have no great fondness for Obama, but then, neither had I for the other candidate, and I can't say that I'll be sorry to see the present President leave office. Nevertheless, the office of leadership deserves my respect, my loyalty, and above all my prayers for guidance, strength, and a willingness to speak out in truth at all costs. This last is not a commodity in abundance within the world of politics. I dread what Obama may do upon assuming office, but the truth of the matter is neither I nor anyone else knows for certain what this might be, and now is the time for prayer--to earnestly implore God to change the mind and heart of the man who will be the next leader of the United States. Given that his whims will be essentially unopposed, let us pray that they are more often breezes from Heaven rather than draughts from Hell.

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Sam commented to me yesterday that he was glad that the stories in those old myths weren't true because the Egyptians had this story about some guy who would weigh your heart against a feather and if your heart weighed more, you'd be thrown to some creature that eats souls. And everyone knows a heart weighs more than a feather.

I pointed out to him that ancient Egyptians stored the heart in a canopic jar, so it wasn't the real physical heart they were weighing, but a spiritual heart--and a heart weighed down by sin would weigh more than a feather.

"Oh yeah! And a heart filled up with good things wouldn't weigh much. I get it." Then a heartbeat later, "I bet when those Egyptians got to heaven they were really surprised. After all they imagined they got there and there weren't a whole lot of Gods running around. Just one."

"Yeah, I bet that did come as a surprise."

Just a little note following on what I wrote a few days ago about St. Paul's letter to the Romans. More on that subject a bit later.

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A Weekend in the Arts

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This was Sam's weekend with Saturday given over (the entire day from 9 am to 10 pm) to his dance recital and Sunday to his Royal Academy of Music Piano exam. About the latter, there is little or nothing to relate, so the bulk of this post shall refer to the former.

Sam was in five dances on Saturday--tap, hip-hop, ballet, acro, and jazz. (Doesn't this begin to sound like the set-up for a logic problem?) In each case, as the only boy his age in the troupe, he was noticeable and something of a centerpiece.

The theme of the recital was "A Trip to New York" and this first tap dance was called "Tourists." It was danced to a song that sounded vintage 1920s or 1930s but could have been of more recent day. The entire troupe acquitted themselves very nicely given the rehearsals and the classes we had seen. In fact, more than very nicely, they were all pretty much in synch and the dance went off without a hitch. He has also passed the age at which he spends a lot of his time looking off-stage expecting prompts and help from the teachers.

The second dance was our least favorite dance-class of the year and the one I keep threatening to withdraw him from. Unfortunately, it is also his favorite. The Hip-Hop dance was titled "Double Decker Bus" and was danced to some piece called "Double Dutch Bus." He was the busdriver and I have to admit, as a performance, the piece looked far better than it did in rehearsals and practices and he did a really fine job (I suppose). It's really hard to evaluate whether one is doing a good job in hip-hop because much of it looks like a barely controlled seizure to me. However, the audience appeared engaged, and that, I suppose, is one sign. Even among parents ardently interested in their own children's performance, it is difficult to get much of a reaction to the performances of others' children--and this received a warm welcome.

The third dance was his ballet and it was really spectacular for me to see. Titled "Little Italy," it was danced to a vaguely classical sounding Tarantella. After a balletic version of a folk dance, Sam had a short solo consisting of a run around the half-circle of girls, four "air-splits" (or whatever the move is called, where the dancer jumps straight up with legs outstretched) and two tournes-en-leve--a simple jump and spin. What was really neat about the whole thing was that Sam managed to keep toes pointed and good form throughout the dance. Throughout this year of dance, he had been afflicted with a severe case of spaghetti arms, but there was no sign of it during the recital.

The acro piece was done in rainbow colored Tina-Turner wigs and danced to The Chipmunk's version of "Funky Town." Sam is still coming into his own on acro, but I was astounded by all of the moved I saw, including a set of one handed cartwheel two girls did while holding hands. I can't imagine the coordination that takes.

The final dance was Jazz. Performed to "Jailhouse Rock," I was once again astounded by two things--pointed toes and "jazz hands." Jazz hands, for those who don't know the terminology are hands shown with fingers widely splayed. Sam's spaghetti arms also tended to afflict his Jazz hands, but he managed them quite capably.

Overall, the performance showed to me something that I seem to see time and again. For an audience, Sam can do amazing things. The audience energizes him and really brings out the very best in his performance. While practicing and running through the routines, not so much. But wow, give him an audience and he'll have them eating out of his hands.

As soon as I transfer them, I'll try to have some picture for you all.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Samuel category.

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