Thursday, May 1, 2008

Anzac Concert 2008

Thanks, Dave, for your encouragement and for giving me the opportunity to be part of this program. Thanks, Dana, for turning all those black notes and lines into marvellous, majestic sound, and for demonstrating your enjoyment of what I do.

I didn't have anyone to film the show, so the best visuals I can offer are recordings of the rehearsal, available here, and views of my gown and cloak, available here.

At the rehearsal I tested the Anzac outfit itemized in the latter link [Boutique Narelle], including 6cm heels. I hadn't worn high heels on stage since the first time since I sang a solo in competition, aged 16. In those days, all high heels were stilettos. My knees wobbled so badly I nearly fell off my shoes and I declared that I would never sing again in high heels. With all the experience I've gained in the past year, I was ready to test out 'higher' ground.

I'm getting the hang of arraying myself for formal events. Sorry, no pics -- the camera that operates from the tripod with self-timer and flash was in the South Island. Girls, if you have family or friends who can help you get ready for an important occasion, you don't know how blessed you are. Anything I've achieved with my appearance has been figured out alone.

As usual, the ladies of the theatre company did a terrific job decorating the theatre. Streamers and strings of flags twisted and looped their way across the walls, interspersed with military and patriotic flags, creating an inviting and evocative atmosphere.

I was second on the program, which pleased me (no long wait trying to keep the vocal chords warm in the chilly backstage recesses), and I'm happy with how I did. I marvel at how the Lord sustained me that week to enable me to perform without the huge physical distress I laboured under last year. I had a glass of water at the side, which I did take recourse to between songs. I'd recently seen two professional singers apply the water treatment during their performances, so I figured it wouldn't be taboo for me to do it. The audience laughed when I said that throats don't acknowledge important occasions -- clearly nobody minded. I went into a spasm of shaking when I exited the stage and I had to sit down quickly, but my knees didn't wobble one bit while performing, and even when my accompanist took the second song slower than we'd practiced (meaning I needed more breath to reach the end of a phrase) and we got out of sync on the last page, we carried on and got it sorted without a blink, finishing with aplomb.

I was glad of a comfortable armchair backstage, happily one that had a good view onto the stage. Wrapped in my fleecy, satin-lined coat (a Boutique Narelle creation), I watched most of the show from there (whilst eating my picnic tea, since lunch had been at 11am), punctuated with amusing comments from Dana beside me, but some of the spoken items couldn't be heard backstage, so in the second half I ventured out into the auditorium to watch from there. My favourite parts of the program were...

Two of the Camo Girls from the first half featured in the middle of "Three from Company B" in the second half, giving the older girls time to remove the military overcoats and caps they'd started the number in (they wore violent pink sequins underneath). The little girls emerged dressed in pale blue, one from each side of the stage, with their arms holding around them a red, white, and blue flag. They stood together in the centre and unwrapped their arms to reveal a notice pinned to their tummy. One sign said AN and the other, ZAC. Floating their arms like butterfly wings, they danced about until they faced the back of the stage, posing there so the audience could see that one flag was Australian and the other was New Zealand, garnering a round of applause from the audience.

Dave and Alan hammed a comedy duo in Depression era caps and overcoats, a number that reminded me of the 1930s USA variety shows depicted in the movie "The Glenn Miller Story", the guys strolling back and forth across the stage in tandem while earnestly singing some ridicilous lyrics. The piece de resistance was the reading of a newspaper from 10 years ago, announcing the startling news that Dannevirke was now endowed with a woman mayor ("Whatever would come next, a woman prime minister?" said Alan. "That would be astonishing, but totally unbelievable would be a woman president of the United States!" answered Dave.), and the shocking announcement that petrol cost 50 cents per litre -- it's currently at NZ$1.89.

The show closed with "Now is the Hour" (lyrics in the following post), followed by the National Anthem (the gathering and I sang the first verse together; they sang the Maori version while I 'oohed' a descant I'd written the night before; I soloed the fifth verse), followed by the Last Post played with the spotlight on the New Zealand flag. Then in the silence and gloom, retired Lietenant Commander Bill Ingram intoned:

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."*

The audience repeated, "We will remember them." And the concert was over.

I spoke to the bugler afterward, thanking him for his part and saying how much I enjoyed the patriotic ceremony and tradition of the closing moments, something of which our country has very little. He said thoughtfully, "I guess our country is still too young."

The ANZAC tradition, begun in 1915, has lived on for nearly a century. Every year the numbers attending the Dawn and Civic ceremonies multiply, young people, particularly children, replacing the returned servicemen who've died, honouring those who have served our country in times of conflict since that day.

New Zealand does a good job of remembering those who have fallen in battle, but freedom is for the living, and the future of this life and freedom we enjoy is daily compromised by unrighteousness in public affairs and private individuals. Rather than swerving into worship of our fallen ancestors, let's learn from the Anzac tradition -- let's stand up for what we believe in and remain faithful to the cause of righteousness. I felt very privileged to stand on the ceremonial stage with our nation's flag above my head, testifying unashamedly to the truth and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

*From the poem "For the Fallen", by Laurence Binyon.

Anzac news report: Hawkes Bay Today.

Listen to portions of my program here. The recordings were made at the rehearsal. Due to the size of the media files, the limits of PhotoBucket, and my lack of technical knowledge (i.e. file squashing), I couldn't load the complete songs.
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