Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Peter Grimes Is Coming!

Next September the Sapporo Symphony Chorus & Orchestra will be putting on the opera “Peter Grimes” by Benjamin Britten.  The opera is rarely performed in Japan, or in the world for that matter.  However, after the Symphony Chorus debut last December, apparently it was felt that we were capable of undertaking the challenge.

The chorus is involved in this opera more than in most, playing a role similar to that of the choruses in ancient Greek drama.  The townspeople of the tiny fishing village provide constant commentary on the events taking place.

What's so great for me is that the opera will be sung in English!  No doubt it'll be a serious challenge for my chorus-mates, but I'll help in any way I can.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Halloween on the 4th of July

At first the students in my To Kill a Mockingbird class had no idea what Boo meant. Boo is the nickname the children in the novel give to a neighbor who stays hidden from sight, thus appealing to their vivid imaginations.

My students knew almost nothing about Halloween, either, even though it’s becoming a popular holiday in Japan – as does any holiday that involves bright decorations and a strong possibility for profit. Because the events following a Halloween pageant in To Kill a Mockingbird are the climax to the novel, it’s natural to incorporate Halloween activities into the lessons.

First, we had a visit to the House of Horrors. Just as in the novel, my students, with eyes closed, had to touch parts from a dead body: the eyes (peeled grapes), the heart (raw pig’s liver), and “innards” (spaghetti). Even though our House of Horrors was limited, being in the hall outside the classroom, the students provided the appropriate squeals and squeamish behavior. They also had no problem answering the question in the chapter relating to the dead body parts!

Then, they had their first experience with a costume contest. Given the limitations imposed by a class of 31 students that meets in a computer lab twice a week, the contest was confined to hats. A majority of the students participated enthusiastically, with enough variety for everyone to vote on a number of categories: the most original, the most beautiful, the strangest, the funniest, the cutest, and the perfect hat. The winners can be seen in the photo. Who would you vote for?

This was an intensive course that goes from April to July, so the lesson on Halloween happened to fall on the 4th of July. I can only hope that my students don’t think that Americans celebrate their Independence Day with pumpkins and witches’ hats!

[added later]
At another university, for all women, the course goes the full school year, so the lesson on Halloween falls naturally at the end of October. These students also gussied up for a hat contest, with several choosing, for some reason, to be witches.