In defense of Sparrows and sacred music

by DaniGirl on June 27, 2011 · 3 comments

in Life in Ottawa

You might remember last year I wrote about an amazing choir program at the boys’ school. I wrote, in part, about my surprise and delight when they spontaneously burst into song at dinner one night:

I was impressed when they started talking about works by “Mr Beethoven” and was gobsmacked when Tristan opined that while he liked the first and second movements of Moonlight Sonata, he definitely favoured the third. I nearly fell off my chair when Simon asked if we could put “Mr Beethoven’s” Rage Over a Lost Penny on his MP3 player. My six-year old wants Beethoven on his music player?!

And then they burst into a harmonic version of Jubilata Deo. They have beautiful, soft singing voices and while they were not perfectly in tune, the spontaneous burst of sacred music at my otherwise chaotic dinner table shocked me into fat, proud tears. What wormhole has opened up and deposited me into an alternate universe?

That moment was courtesy of Maestro Uwe Lieflander and the Sacred Music Society’s Sparrows program. You might have heard about the program recently on the news. Maestro Lieflander stepped down from his position when he was told by the school board that he could continue only if he promised to continue with a “no touching” rule in place.

I spent several snowy November evenings in a school library, watching Maestro Lieflander in action. He is physical with the kids, poking them in the diaphram to encourage proper breathing, touching shoulders to adjust posture, and even patting them on the head when they are successful. He has a strong sense of the silly, and knows how to use it to keep the kids engaged. And, at the end of each lesson, the children would line up to be whacked in the head affectionately with their own songbooks, a ritual Simon came to look forward to. You really have to see it in action to get it, but when you see it, it’s fun for both the participants and the observers.

I have no problem whatsoever with the kind of physical interaction the Maestro had with my boys. He may be a few miles off the beaten path of political correctness, but there is no doubt that his eccentric style completely engaged the kids.

This year for Father’s Day, we made a recording of the boys singing. My dad had requested it after the boys spontaneously burst into song at Granny and Papa Lou’s dinner table one night. This is one of the songs that Maestro Lieflander taught our boys. I continue to be tickled that the boys spontaneously burst into sacred harmonics while doing puzzles or trading Pokemon cards.

The schools that have been exposed to Maestro Lieflander have indeed been blessed. The school board would be wise to reverse this decision. When I told my seven-year-old that there might not be a Sparrow’s program next year, his face fell. “Why?” he asked, clearly disappointed.

For no good reason, from what I can see.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Denise Nielsen June 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Sorry – I find it really annoying that great programs such as this can be cancelled because of bureaucratic stupidity and political correctness, and I barely have words to express how that makes me feel. Grr.

2 DaniGirl June 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Oh Denise, you reminded me of something else I meant to mention — it’s my understanding that this is based on ONE complaint. I truly hope that’s incorrect. 🙁

3 Sara June 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I read the article this weekend and my heart dropped: how sad for the community to lose this program, especially when funding and programming for the arts is so often overlooked. My grandmother volunteered at the same elementary school for almost 15 years and was referred to by all staff, students, and parents as ‘Grandma X’. After 10 years at the school ONE parent complained to the principal that she felt it was an inappropriate nickname and everyone was immediately informed that the affectionate nickname would need to replaced by my grandmother’s first name. But the outcry from the school community and parents thankfully quashed that demand and things continued as they had been for a decade.

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