Updated: May 26, 2020
I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about what teachers do and arguing that we are very well served by the teaching profession.
Never was this more evident than last week at Melbourne’s iconic Palais Theatre where Elwood Primary School presented “Rockin’ the Palais”.
And “Rock” the Palais they did.
Before I explain what made this night of primary school performance so extraordinary, remember this is a state school. One of the thousands of state schools that serve the children of this country.
The night began with a medley of songs from the “support band” The Yard Duty Birds & The Yardettes.
They were some support band!
They were made up of teachers and ancillary staff and they brought the house down.
The fact that a bunch of teachers and ancillary staff would put themselves out there in front of their students was unremarkable. Teachers put themselves out there in front of their students all the time. The fact that they could find the time to get such a joyous and well executed performance together was, in the circumstances, remarkable.
Especially when you consider what followed.
It wasn’t just the quality of the show that blew me away. It was a wonderful example of what can be achieved by dedicated teachers and enthusiastic kids. It was great and I knew it would be great but while I was watching it I began to consider just what it would have taken to mount such an extravaganza. The choice of the Palais was visionary. It gave the concert a dimension that would have been impossible to achieve in any other venue.
How did the teachers manage the logistics of staging an event on this scale?
The first act was Prep doing a medley of songs from thePointer Sisters, Status Quo and The Wiggles. Prep are 7-8 year olds. They are energetic, to say the least. To contain that many of them in the one place was quite an achievement. The Preps were supported by a band of teachers and parents under the watchful eye of music teacher Brendan Jacobs. They were led by“ back up” singers and soloists. For instance, four Grade 4 students stood behind them with mics and led them on I’m So Excited while the Preps sang and danced along enthusiastically and excitedly.
This performance was followed by performances from Grades 1-6 in ascending order. Each grade performed medleys of songs from Missy Higgins to Paul Kelly toDeep Purple to Powderfinger. 20 artists were represented, all of whom had performed at the Palais at one time or other. On top of that Grade 5 performed a medley from Jesus Christ Superstar, which has also been performed there.
“What’s the big deal about this?” you might ask.
750 students took to the stage to perform before an audience of roughly 1200. There were 21 “Tracks”. 21 individual songs and medleys that were comprised of a total of 38 songs plus the 26 individual lyrics specially penned for the finale, a rollicking version of Barnsey’sGood Times.
That’s a pretty impressive song list for any concert.
It’s even better when you consider Brendan and his team arranged the music of each song. Various incarnations of various bands comprising teachers, parents and students played each one live. There were no backing tracks. This was the real deal.
Then there was the small matter of transposing songs likePaint it Black and The Unguarded Moment for young voices.
Add to that Vicki’s choreography for each of the 38 songs and the “back up” singers (she was Yard Duty’s drummer as well) and you get an idea of the scale of this achievement.
Watching this all unfold seamlessly I began to think about the rehearsals and how much patience it must have taken to achieve this remarkable feat.
Then I noticed each Grade was filing on and filing off stage in the most unobtrusive way.
How did the teachers manage to wrangle that many kids on and off stage and into their seats without pulling focus from what was taking place on stage? Just think about that birthday party for 8 year olds you organised and how you felt when the last of them went home. It takes a bit of skill to be able to corral kids at that age.
What about bussing all 750 of them from the school to the Palais when each bus could only hold 2 and1/2 classes? That meant a teacher had to try and split themselves between 2 buses so they could supervise their class!
What about the toilets? These kids were performing in front of a huge audience and…not to put too fine a point on it…wrangling the toilets would have been challenging to say the least.
What about 600 odd kids sitting around waiting to rehearse their numbers on the day of the concert? Can you imagine the nervous energy in that place?
In summary, the whole of Elwood College participated in staging Rockin’ the Palais. That’s 34 classroom teachers plus the Principal who, by the way, was unobtrusively handing out programs before the show; the Deputy Principal; two Assistant Principals; all specialist teachers; all the office staff; all the teaching aides and the parents who played in the band and the T&L coach.
I’m exhausted just writing them out.
This event made the Invasion of Normandy look like a walk in the park.
Well, not quite, but you get the picture.
It was a magnificent achievement from the whole school community and the staff in particular.
We should never forget that this kind of effort is replicated, one way or another, in every school in every state of the country.
And we should salute our teachers for it!