Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Pooka

This is a scene from the movie "Harvey". Jimmy Stewart played "Elwood P. Dowd", a very happily retired, somewhat inebriated, man in the 1940's. It was from a play by Mary Chase put on in her small town that was so successful it made it to "Broadway" and the "movies". I remember hearing about it, but I never got to see it. Well, last night, my wife and I had the privilege of "experiencing" it at our local amateur, community theater. We knew three of the "actors" (Elwood, Harvey and Myrtle May). I enjoyed "acting" with "Elwood" in an Agatha Christie Murder Mystery a few years back. He was the lead detective. I have sung barbershop with "Harvey". He is a great bass. It was fun and a tight, smooth performance by all.

A "Pooka" is from Irish Folklore/legend. Ms. Chase was raised by some Irish uncles who were "full of it" so to speak. It is known to be a "shape shifting", mischievious spirit that "makes life more interesting" for those to whom it appears. In the play Harvey takes the form, only through Elwood's eyes as a giant, male human with a white rabbit head-an imaginary friend. The only physical evidence of it in the play is a black hat left on stage with two ear-holes in the top. This "Harvey" has a rich, baritone singing voice that we hear from offstage from time to time. This director has very cleverly used a follow-spot to freeze action on stage and then stimulate some "romantic action" between four of the principals. One of the characters reads the definition of a "Pooka" from the dictionary left on stage and it's definition is changed and uses his name. Money conveniently disappears and appears from the main antagonist's purse because of "Harvey".

I'm pretty sure my "pooka" through the years has been an "imaginary musical friend". At the moment I call him "woody". He has taken residence in my baritone ukulele. He goes with me to all my classrooms I visit as a sub now. He inspires and stimulates singing, rhythm and musical "hijinx". Just yesterday, he had the kids rolling on the floor all over the classroom as "meatballs" from our song "On Top of Spaghetti". I had to stop them from rolling out the door..."and into the garden". They especially enjoyed being "nothing but moosh". He and I try to create and inspire imagination wherever we go. I refer to "him" as "Woody" in my case and I tell them about his recent stint in the "Instrument Hospital" for his "crack in the back". (he's made of mostly wood) Hey, don't scoff, it works with Kinders through Thirds.

Previous "pookas" have appeared to me throughout my "musical life" ie. sitting next to me on the piano bench and tapping out the rhythm on a particularly challenging practice piece; being the unseen third (trio) part with my sister and I as we sang "duets" in Swedish for old church friends: thumping the bass viol in the Jr. Hi. Orchestra right next to me; being the invisible 13th madrigal in my strolling groups in H.S. and college to keep me on pitch.(I really wasn't alone on my part); touring with me in two college choirs on the East and West coasts of the U.S. and being in our "gospel quartet"(quintet); not appearing with me, but being there for me in my "naval choir" gigs. (such fortification he provided); steering me clear of a "rock and roll" band as a "back-up" singer in those early days; being an honorary member of the S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. in three choruses and quartets; standing next to me in the bass and tenor sections of three Master Chorales, one that toured in Europe and sang for the Pope in the Sistine and placed 6th in the Olympics of Choirs in Wales; and tried to stand next to me on local gigs to retirement homes with our Ukulele Jazz Band called, "Pineapple Jam".

I can truly feel a "palpable presence" when I'm out playing and singing now. I never used to know what it was. I must be part Irish and "he" must've been following me all my life. Music as been my life saver and "relief valve" from many a stress and disappointment. It has also provided many of my most joyful moments...which can't be captured or recorded on any CD or Blu-ray. You can see why I'm convinced that music must be shared in our classrooms and of all kinds. Recent State Budget Cuts are going to do away with most, if not all, of the specialists and most of the regular classroom teachers haven't got the time or the inclination to provide any musical leaning as a vehicle for their lessons. I was at a "fund raiser" again this past Friday and this time they "got to the kids" (of all grades) with a "DJ" and all their currently popular rock tunes. She, the DJ, had a contest between boys and girls to see/hear who knew the words (could sing) all of the latest songs better. It was a tie. Wow, were they motivated and intently listening to every profit-making pitch (pun intended). We are losing so many of our kid's "musical minds" and "manic motivations" by not including more music and rhythm in their daily classroom lives. RRR

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course my parents would have me believe that my "musical pooka" is really a "divine presence" as in, "Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, let me stand..." I must admit that is still part of my belief structure. Most of my singing/playing through the years have been "acts of worship"...especially the religious songs/hymns, requiems etc. I do miss it now. RRR