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November is a difficult month for me to discuss personal thoughts because there are so many meaningful things happening:  Election Day, Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. I have written about all of these in past years.

My mother, at age 99 ½, joined us for Thanksgiving dinner and asked her famous question:  “Is everybody happy?!  She then announced she was happy because dinner was not at my house: “There are too many stairs to climb.”  Actually, there are two more stairs at our daughter’s house, but I learned long ago not to argue with Mom because she is always right.

As for the election, I was happy it was over.  Or is it?

My favorite memory this year is Veterans’ Day, when we celebrate the men and women who put their lives on the line so that we can be safe. The highlight of the month was attending the annual fall music program at the elementary school where our youngest grandchild, Angelina, is a third grade student and a member of the chorus.  I have attended music programs at SJG, as the school is affectionately known, for seven or eight years, first to watch Julian, then Isabella and now Angelina, participate in the chorus.

The audience was packed with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others for the 1:45 p.m. performance.  It was standing room only.  Thirty-eight children filed in (yes, I counted them twice and took plenty of photos) and took their places in three rows on the tiered stage, all of them scrubbed and dressed in crisp, neat clothes, each of them smiling at us.  They were led by Ms. Ann Marie Finnen, the music teacher, who accompanied them on the piano.  Each year in the past, when the concert was over, and the children were posing for photo ops by proud family members, I told Ms. Finnen how impressive the performance was - - the best I had seen to date.  I didn’t think it was possible for this year to be an improvement.  I was wrong.

Imagine watching and listening to a group of eight year olds singing half a dozen songs on key and in synch.  Imagine a group of eight year olds singing in two part harmony and not sounding like a bunch of cats meowing in the yard.  Imagine a group of eight year olds singing a song where the words and music coming from half of them were different from the other half - - intentionally and on key.  Ms. Finnen later told me the term for that type of singing, but I’m sorry to say I forgot what it is called.  In addition to the singing, some of the students accompanied the group on what appeared to be home-made alto and bass xylophones, and others had solo parts shaking sticks filled with beans or pebbles that sounded, but did not look like, like maracas. Angelina was one of the soloists and didn’t miss a beat.

There were two highlights to the program.  The first was a medley of official songs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corps and Coast Guard.  I knew them all and sang along silently. At the end of each song, two students picked up a banner for the branch of service whose song had been sung, walked off the stage and attached the banner to the long side wall onto perfectly positioned velcro strips.  I don’t use the word “awesome” indiscriminately.  The rendition was awesome.

The second was the reading of the names of relatives of SJG students who had served our country: fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, great-grandfathers, uncles, aunts and cousins.  I lost count at fifty.  Even more impressive were the veterans of World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Viet Nam War and the Gulf War who were present in the audience to see their young relatives perform.  They say that real men don’t cry.  If that is so, I must not be a real man, and neither were the others I saw wiping tears away.

When the program was over, I caught up with Ms. Finnen and once again told her she had outdone herself.  The power of music is extraordinary. I can only imagine what next year’s concert will be like.


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