Poems, music, and animal crackers! What could be better?
By Hilary Major, LS, MS, US strings instructor
Carnival of the Animals is a well loved piece of music, by both children and adults. When Camille Saint-Saens wrote it in 1886 he would not let it be published while he was alive. He thought it was just for fun and he did not think it was serious enough to be published. He left instructions in his will that the piece could be published once he died and so, after Saint-Saen’s death in 1921, the piece was published. Ogden Nash wrote poems to go along with the suite in 1949. Often the poems are read along with the performances of the music. I bought an arrangement of the piece for string orchestra a few years ago to do with the orchestra, and while I was studying the score and looking through YouTube videos of various performances. I found some great clips of the poems being read by Roger Moore. I thought it would be great to have a middle school drama class read the poems while we performed the music for lower school. Then, while walking through lower school after school one day, I saw in the snack cabinet some animal crackers, and it all came together. Poems, music and animal crackers, what could be better?
On Monday, April 18, Mixed Magic Theater brought their production of Reflections: Growing Up a Black Man in America, written and directed by Ricardo Pitts-Wiley to Moses Brown’s juniors and seniors. A series of vignettes Pitts-Wiley has spent years honing and which he presented to the public last spring at his Mixed Magic Theater in Pawtucket, Reflections veers through a range of emotions, including anger and humor, as actors Mishell Lilly, Jay Walker, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, and MB’s own humanities teacher Jonathan Pitts-Wiley presented poems and stories about the issues facing black men.
After the one-hour performance the cast invited questions, and many students and adults wanted to learn about the influences that spurred the play, as well as the issues related within the stories. There were several queries about The Knives I Survived, recited by Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, and the actors recalled their personal experiences of consciousness of their race through life’s daily routines. Though the vignettes were based on Pitts-Wiley’s experience as a black man, there were several questions about the role of black women in this country, prompting talk about Ricardo’s granddaughter Corinne and his wife Bernadet, the latter of whom he brought on stage to respond.
When asked at the end what our audience should take away from the performance, Ricardo shared his hope that the audience learned something from these stories, and that they might “no longer claim ignorance” of the realities to which Reflections refers. This performance also tied in with the student-led book discussion on Te-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, which took place Wednesday, April 20.
We thought you would enjoy a glimpse of last Friday’s morning meeting, where fourth-graders worked with their first grade buddies with the first-graders on their realistic fiction stories. The older students took their responsibilities so seriously and were supportive and … Continue reading →