Auke Bay kids perform Russian folk

About 120 third- and fourth-graders plan to put their best foot forward

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It's time for the winter concert at Auke Bay Elementary, and music teacher Ann Boochever has her glockenspiels lined up.

Glockenspiels, xylophones, metallophones and contra bass bars, and about 120 third- and fourth-graders.

The hour-long concerts at 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, with a Russian folk theme, will involve singers, dancers, musicians, narrators and actors.

"It is a lot," Boochever said. "I didn't really mean for it to be quite so complicated. It just grew. It's been so fun.

"It is a lot for third- and fourth-grade. They're really reaching to achieve all they need to achieve to be able to do it."

Some children play several roles. Christiana Parrish will sing, narrate, play the glockenspiel, and dance - at least a little.

"I stand in the middle when they do the Russian dance and stick my leg up," she said succinctly. "That's pretty much it."

Alexandra Eason plays the chimes, triangle and the "stick-thingy," sings and has a nonspeaking acting role. Hard?

"Not really. I have to practice with one of my best friends," she said.

The students as a group have just four rehearsals in which to learn some complicated timing.

During Tuesday's rehearsal, toward the end of the performance, Boochever was coordinating the movements of Bianca Clark playing the snow girl, the elderly couple played by Jackson Pavitt and Gina Lear, a group of students who would encircle Clark, and a narrator who would step up to the microphone.

Students on the percussion instruments have to time their notes to express the actions of children making a snowman and putting on the nose, eyes and other accouterments.

There are two casts of actors.

"We have two shows, one for the school, one for the parents," Jackson said. "I'm the morning old man."

Jackson Lehnhart, the evening old man, said the cast stayed in at recess at least 10 times to practice.

"But after you know your lines, you just have to memorize where to put them," he said.

The performance, which is more music than theater, tells the Russian folk story of an elderly couple whose daughter died at a young age and who yearn for a child.

"I don't think I could ever be happy until I have a child," Gina said and added a moan for good measure.

During the winter a snow girl forms and sleeps outside near the couple's house, but she must leave in the spring for colder climes.

The students enter to recorded music and took their places on risers.

"I want you to come in with a lot more energy because that music is really high-energy. I want you to come in like you're horses," Boochever said, stepping high, like a prancing horse.

Boochever led the students through the song "Moscow Nights," gesturing to tell the students when to sing louder. The students' voices were tied to her arms and hands.

Other songs in the show are by a friend of Boochever's, from Connecticut, named Linda Sobo. She has written songs for Auke Bay programs before.

Helping teach the Russian dances were a parent, Sarah Thompson, and friend of hers, Karen Maher, who belonged to the Russian dance group from Sitka for many years. Professional accordionist Dale Wygant will play during the concert.

Some students also made cardboard imitations of Russian lacquer boxes, and the whole school is making paper versions of nesting dolls. Parents can take a classroom gallery walk after the performance.

The performance ends with the children holding lights to imitate candles. They must coordinate turning on the lights in sections as they sing and gesture. Coming toward the end of the hour's rehearsal, it took awhile to get it right.

But it came together in the darkened gym, each section of faces glowing at the right time as Boochever walked in front of them, instructing, singing, gesturing.

"That was beautiful," she said, "but we sang the first verse twice."

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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