Friday, 8 April 2011

Don't Put Your Son On The Stage...

I can still remember the day I developed a school boy crush on Ana Watson.  I had just hung my small leather school bag on the peg and been marshalled into my new primmer two class, what would now be termed Grade II.

Miss Watson was a young graduate teacher and a Maori from the local Iwi of my home town of Waitara.  The school in question being Waitara Central, in northern Taranaki.

I happened to be great mates with her younger brother Evan, who started school at the same time as I.  He had a younger (and shorter) younger brother who everyone called Peewee.

Our classes with Miss Watson were entertaining affairs which which singing and guitar strumming; my first introduction to this instrument which I went on to play in bands in later life. Ana Watson and her sisters had formed a group The Watson Sisters and sang in close harmony at regional concerts.

My enduring memory is learning a wonderful array of traditional Maori songs which we all sang with a great gusto, albeit in a rather shrill falsetto.  It was the most natural of introduction into the multicultural society of New Zealand.

Owae Marae - Manukorihi Pa
I must have had a modicum of talent as I was selected to join Evan and Peewee is a small 'concert party' which performed as one of the warm up acts to the Howard Morrison Quartet in the Waitara Memorial Hall.  With our piupui rustling we waited nervously in the wings as other acts performed.

After we sang a couple of songs we then entertained the crowd with a spirited haka which had the crowd roaring with appreciation largely at Peewee's protruding tongue and eye-rolling antics as he performed the pukana.  As the only small white body performing I must have appeared quite a novelty but we performed our act  reasonably well and received an appreciative ovation.

My favourite song from those times was the gentle melody of Pa Mai ( hear in the video below)

This Waitara concert was my first real experience of performing on a stage and I loved it!  As a result I would be the first to audition for the various school plays as I made my way through the grades.

I even performed at home home for the neighbourhood children firstly with a small puppet theatre and later doing conjuring with a range of tricks I had saved up and bought by mail order from De Larno's Magic Centre in Christchurch's Chancery Lane.

But it is my first experience of being on a real stage that sticks in my memory long after I left Taranaki.  Performing build confidence and in those days I had it in bucket loads - probably too much for many of my frazzled teachers!

Another highlight from those times was going with my small friends up to the Manukorihi Pa from time to time. In hindsight these were carefree days as any childhood should be.

Such experiences were a good grounding for life and the over emphasis on academic achievement from early childhood these days is, in my opinion, a great mistake.  The world needs well rounded and adaptable people and a childhood rich in cultural interaction and exploration encourages the development of the enquiring mind.
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