Saturday, June 11, 2011

The 2011 English Pop Song Competition

Seems the middle schools in the district hold English pop song competitions every year.  Being a local celebrity famous for my coziness with the English language, I was chosen to judge both auditions and final performances.  Auditions were weird.  At 0830 hopefuls came to my classroom and sang one unaccompanied minute of their songs to myself, Chortle, and a roomful of mixed-grade students.  You can imagine the horror of being 12 years old and singing a foreign-language song first thing in the morning in front of 2 teachers and two dozen strangers.

Singers scrupulously observed rests, including instrumental breaks, which makes for a real awkward a capella performance, let me tell you.  When their minute was up Chortle barked at them in Korean and they shuffled to their seats trying to hide their pantloads of terrorshit.  Some students sang in groups of 2-3, in which cases harmony was attempted.  This usually worked but is the only reason I can now say I've heard "Lemon Tree" sung in parallel tritones.  Well, technically it is harmony and the girls were so consistent that I have to think maybe they were just being avant garde.

For the final performances the school's English Day! banner--evidently unfurled for every extracurricular English event--was hung in the auditorium.  The festivities began with technical difficulties.  The auditorium's PA didn't work despite having been thoroughly tested.  Plan B was to broadcast the music over the entire school's PA at 78 rpm quality, which gets the sausage made, but at what cost?  Someone working the technology accidentally started "Dancing Queen" 3 or 4 times, which was cool because hey, ABBA!, but it turned into a huge tease when the girls who were slated to perform it no-showed.

Then there were the microphones.  They all had dirty/loose XLRs or something and crackled when jostled.  I started hating the very idea of the microphone after the first student stabbed "You Raise Me Up" into my eardrums singing straight out his nose.  I got a headache from the kid who wrapped his hand around the windscreen, held it to his lips and shouted into it.  I could see his carotid artery swelling with exertion.  He doubled over when he wanted to be louder still, like he was trying to use his pelvis for leverage against his diaphragm in a perverse quest for mechanical advantage.  And he did a wordless caterwauling thing I cannot adequately describe; it was simultaneously painful to hear and hilarious.  The applause he received was thunderous.  I couldn't tell whether it was ironic or if the crowd prized his total commitment.

Singers provided printed lyrics for the judges.  This was helpful because most of the time listening alone was incapable of determining which words were intended.  (No one was this much fun though.)  One song was performed twice and the two transcriptions didn't agree.  Is the line "sense of elation" or "since ovulation"?  The difference is huge, guys.  I also learned you can safely drop the f-bomb on your Korean middle school's principal and 5 of its English teachers because none of them will catch it.

All told, I'm glad this was my last English Pop Song Competition.  Being the Paula was hard work.

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