In the opening song of my all-time-favourite-musical-ever-ever-ever there’s a short exchange between two parents.
Did you see his school report? He got a C on his report!
We’ll have to change his school, the teacher’s clearly falling short…
The song “My mummy says I’m a miracle” brilliantly depicts insufferable parents and their (ahem) talented children. I am now joining those insufferable ranks. Forgive me while I sing the praises of my eldest daughter, Hannah.
Hannah is bright. She reads voraciously and sometimes it’s difficult to get a word in when she’s excited about something: partly because her imagination takes her off on tangents of tangents of tangents, and she struggles to remember what she started off talking about, partly because her brain evidently works faster than her mouth and she struggles to actually get the words out quick enough, partly because it’s just fun to listen to her.
But she has also been quite shy, often a perfectionist who collapses if she makes even a tiny mistake, she gets embarrassed when asked to ‘perform’ in public. She’s young in her school year (June birthday), and is quite happy in her own company, her imagination running riot, much to her own amusement…
This year (she’s 10 at the end of June) she has matured in a way that has made me very proud. Last year there was a Youth Theatre Musical performed in Tetbury. Most of the leading parts were taken by teenagers, but the chorus included Hannah and some of her classmates. She was adamant that she didn’t want a speaking part, she wanted to be in the background. It was quite a big surprise, therefore, when she announced this year that she wanted to audition for a more important part.
Smike is a musical written originally in the 1970s for the children at Kingston Grammar School, loosely based on the Charles Dickens story of Nicholas Nickleby. Hannah took the part of Smike, which certainly isn’t the largest part, but has plenty of lines, acting and three solo songs. She committed herself to rehearsals, and with seemingly only a small amount of active support from us, she was fantastic. We kept asking if she was happy with her lines, did she need to practise the songs, and she declared everything was alright. And indeed it was.
The part of Smike is a pretty sad one. An orphan who gets horribly beaten and abused at school, who spends most of the play alone. It wasn’t a very easy watch for me.
As is increasingly common for me, it got pretty dusty in the hall when Hannah was singing, or being beaten up, or sat huddled in a corner of the stage which suddenly seemed huge and dangerous compared to her vulnerable smallness. She wasn’t perfect by any means, but this was her first time on stage in front of nearly 100 people. Her words were clear, her acting was decent, we believed in Smike. And we all cheered her at the end.
Alongside the fairly intensive rehearsals for this show, Hannah has also been preparing for her Grade I piano exam. Again, she’s not exactly Wolfgang Amadeus, but in the last few months her confidence and commitment at playing the piano has made a step-change. It feels like she’s realised she can play her pieces well, she’s started to work out and play song tunes by ear, and she actually practises her scales. She’s just received the results from her exam, passing with a strong Merit at 127/150. When she called me at work to tell me, all I got was shrieking and whooping down the phone.
What’s more, at the local Minchinhampton Music Festival recently there was a children’s day, when kids of all ages and all abilities on any instruments could play as part of a competition. Hannah actively wanted to play, despite having been reluctant to even play in front of me just a few months ago. Again in front of more than 50 people she played her pieces and did it pretty well.
My little girl is growing up. It is my privilege to be able to watch and guide her, and bask in her reflected glory as she does. She is a miracle.