The Wiz That Wasn’t


Most Sundays, we start church school in the Children’s Chapel.  All the younger kids – from four to ten years old – meet in there before going off to their respective classes.  We light the chalice, we say the seven principles, and we sing.  We sing a lot.  I’m not a professional singer by any stretch of the imagination (unlike the kids’ music director), but I’m one of the Sunday School teachers.  I try to help keep everyone in time and in tune to the best of my ability. 

The last few weeks have been devoted to practicing songs the kids will be singing upstairs in December to the whole congregation.  It’s a varied set; we’re doing “Let Us Give Thanks” along with “Black and White” from Three Dog Night.  At least I knew the words to that one.  I came in Sunday and the kids were learning “Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz.  I knew the words to that one as well, so I helped to prompt kids as needed as we ran through the song a few times. 

Come on, ease on down, ease on down the road…
Come on, ease on down, ease on down the road…

Things got a little more challenging when the music director sat down to play the piano.  The other teachers had wisely stood behind the kids, while I was up front on one side (the curse of being early).  After another couple of takes, we kicked it up a notch and added some gestures. 

Don’t you carry nothing
(crouch and spread arms wide like an umpire calling a runner safe)

That might be a load
(lift hands like a shovel and throw them up and out over your head)

Adding the hand claps was a bit more challenging than I thought it would be.  Instead of 4/4 time, which I can handle, it was something rather funky.

Come (CLAP) on, (CLAP) (CLAP)
ease on down (CLAP)  
ease on down (CLAP) the road (CLAP) (CLAP)

The final straw was when the dance moves were added.  As a Unitarian Universalist, it is anathema to me to fall back to stereotypes, but in this case I think I have to say it: white people are rhythmically challenged.  There we were, a couple of dozen children lurching and stumbling down the road, whacking each other with their non-existent loads, led by someone who apparently should never try walking and chewing gum at the same time.  The only thing going through my mind was Diana Ross easing on down the road with Michael Jackson.  I mean, we were trying to outdo Michael f%^&ing Jackson.  The guy may be flaky enough to be his own breakfast cereal, but you can’t deny his moves. 

The stink of doom hung heavy in the air of the Children’s Chapel as the last piano notes faded away.  I could take heart in the fact no one had lost an eye.  The music director stood up slowly, pursed his lips, and ran a hand down his face.  I didn’t hear the exact exchange between him and the curriculum director, but I thought I heard “rethink” and “perhaps not the time”.  There was some whispering and nods and we spent the rest of our time together singing “This Little Light of Mine” while seated safely on the floor.

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