Snapshot 4: Stepping out to sing

Feb 23rd – 26th

The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) is an international school much like ours here in Nairobi.

  • Parents who work for governments or major companies or multi-national organizations
  • Kids from all over the world
  • K-12th grade
  • A modified American-style curriculum in an international context

They also have a fantastic choral program. For the last eight years, the music department has hosted a choral festival. International schools from the region are all invited to come sing together in two-days of rehearsals that culminate in a mass concert. The whole event is usually conducted by a guest conductor from the US – often a choral director from a university music program. Teachers that come with students then spend the festival watching the guest conductor or attending education workshops.

I heard about the festival through my former choir teacher, Sue Ogletree (currently teaching in Tunisia). She put me in touch with the coordinator, and from there I began to make plans to take a small group of my choir kids. I did paperwork in November, we got the music in December, began practicing in January, and then flew to Oman in February. You already know the passport story. Now about the festival itself. Eleven schools came – international schools from Saudi, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and of course Kenya.

Words to describe the experience … mind-stretching, exhausting, transformative, intense, profound, magical … and fun.

My students had never before sung in such a large group (150 kids), nor with that many kids who all love singing. They had never sung such hard music, and certainly not to such a high standard of excellence. They had never sung in Arabic. They had never worked with a university-level conductor. They had never spent so many straight hours in rehearsal (about 15 total). They had never sung for such a large audience (about 500-600.) I was overjoyed afterward when almost all of them said that it was the most amazing musical experience they had ever had. Here are a few pics of the rehearsals and the concert.

This is them working with the composer of the commissioned piece. He set an Arab folk song for two choirs: children’s choir and adult choir. It was in Arabic. And it was hard. But they got it!

They stood for a lot of the rehearsal.

In the final concert, I sat too close to get a good pic of the whole group performing. This is just the center third.

The festival was on the Muslim weekend – Thursday and Friday. Saturday is the first day of the week. It was also our day to look around the city before flying back to Nairobi. We had the whole day since our flight was not until after midnight. I hired a small van and driver to take us around and we started at the grand mosque.

The Grand Mosque is the largest in Muscat and is a lovely piece of architecture. It was also an interesting human geography / world civ lesson for a some of my kids – the ones who had never experienced the Arab world before.

Though the mosque does welcome tourists and even grants free admission, there is a bit of a dress code.

Muscat is VERY different from Nairobi. And by different, I mean opposite. Where Nairobi is lush and all shades of green, Muscat is rocky brown and grey. Nairobi is high, Muscat is at sea level. Nairobi has a large population and an underdeveloped infrastructure, Muscat has very few people and a highly developed infrastructure (that is, they have well-kept highways and clear road rules and organized commercial centers, etc.)

After the mosque, we went to a souq (market), McDonalds (because there are none in Kenya and the kids were drooling), and the ocean. We spent several hours at the Dive Center – a place where tourists can swim and not be hassled.

After the ocean, we went to a mall and then dinner and then eventually headed to the airport. A full, educational, and relaxing day. We landed back in Nairobi at 5am Sunday morning. I got home by 7:30am and slept until after noon.

One thought on “Snapshot 4: Stepping out to sing

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  1. lillis, i've been catching up on all your posts that i haven't read since the fall. i left a few comments on your older posts. love reading, as usual.

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