Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Who's Stopping Us?

As I sit in my usual Study Hall perch this evening (albeit with only two students to supervise!), I invoke the mantra of the Whiffenpoofs of 2012, and with it the days of singing and reveling on sunny verandas for people in nicely pressed suits. Why, you ask?

Because it never ends. And here's the proof:

Here's the surprise I've been holding onto, from blog readers and teacher friends alike, for the past few weeks. That's the sunny veranda of the home at which I performed this afternoon with 9 King's Academy singers for a fundraising event thrown by the school's development office. They invited a whole host of well-to-do Jordanians (and others from around the region) for a truly lovely garden party luncheon and wanted to show off some of the school's finest. As always, this meant musical performances, and so continued my illustrious career of singing songs at fancy parties...

After some scrambling around the last week or so, I assembled a 9-singer team, rehearsed a pretty and simple 3-part Arabic song, and along with the student string quintet (+ percussion and another vocalist) we squeezed into a bus right before typical school lunch. The kids were excited enough to be missing two periods of school, but that was only the beginning.

Here's our lunch table, with individual gifts (they turned out to be very pretty candles):

And before too long, the party was in full swing! Our view from across the infinity pool:

All this - not to mention the ancient daggers in the living room, the beautiful still life paintings on the walls, the terrace and gazebo - might've been enough, but the real treat was the guests of honor

I don't want to get too detailed (this is The Internet, after all), but suffice it to say that we performed for some very important people. As in, the most important people. The most important two people. And I have to say, seeing the Big Guy as he speaks on the KA stage is one thing, but singing him a song from twenty feet away is quite another.

And it went great! The kids kept their cool and sounded real good, and we got a personal table visit from him afterwards to congratulate us on a job well done. He has a real knack for inspiration: he gave a little speech to the donors about the power of the school to bring people together and propel them towards successful futures, and I found myself really buying into it and feeling really proud to be part of such an institution. Not sure how he did it: is it something about his status? Or does he actually truly have a way with words? Either way, it was surprisingly moving for an off-the-cuff speech, and reaffirmed my belief that this is a pretty freakin good place to be.

Then, of course, it was lunch time, and when you've got guests like these, you don't skimp on the good stuff. A buffet with seemingly endless options (including caviar, smoked salmon, duck, scallops, and some seriously prime cuts of meat) was followed by an equally endless dessert with all manner of Jordanian and Western delights. I didn't need dinner, to say the least.

So the kids were awed and thrilled, Reem (the string quintet director) and I were feeling good, and our headmaster and trustees seemed legitimately impressed by our performance. I can't say my time with the Whiffs didn't prepare me well for this kind of thing. Another box checked in the world leaders category!

And as a fitting coda to such a special day, we celebrated the best way we could: more food. Specifically, Four Winters, the brand-new liquid nitrogen ice cream place in the swanky part of town. Here's the wizard at work, with bottles of what I could most accurately call "pre-ice cream" behind him:

A few glugs from those bottles, plus a liberal application of liquid nitrogen from some kind of extensive network of tubes, plus a few casual smooches from a blowtorch to keep the product from freezing to the bowl, and voila:

This, if you can believe it, is beetroot ice cream - yes, they do crazy flavors in addition to crazy preparations. And it was so good! A nice sweet start that gave way to a deeper and more savory vegetable flavor, and the orange balanced things out with a juicy, citrusy pop. As tempting as the chocolate peanut butter option was, I'm glad I went out on a limb this time; this crazy pink adventure was well worth it.

So here I am, with one day of school until another three-day weekend, and then it's May all of a sudden and I think I'm going to the Dead Sea for an epic relaxation adventure. Barely enough time to bask in our success this afternoon, but I have to say that the feelings were more familiar than anything else. There's something about throwing on a suit and singing at a party that I doubt will ever quite get out of my system, and though I hardly expected those particular skills to come in handy on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday, it's a good thing I've got them on hand. Almost two years removed from those crazy Whiffenpoof days, I find myself realizing more and more how much they changed me and led me to where I am now. Maybe we don't do as much wanton wandering as we did back then, and maybe we've grown up from that strange golden age of no consequences, but on days like these, when performance and privilege and opportunity seem to land in your lap, the question once again rears its head: who's stopping us?

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