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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My First Publicly Performed Song

            Shortly after my family moved to Crown Point, Indiana in the fall of 1963, my talent of violin playing became noticed by Mrs. Toomb, the choir teacher at Merrillville Junior High School.  Apparently some sort of music appreciation class or something like that was required for seventh graders and since she was the teacher, that's how I ended up in her class.  Mrs. Toomb took a liking to me that year primarily due to my violin playing.

             During that year, through the collective efforts of our class and some of the other music classes taught by Mrs. Toomb, we put together a musical production called Colora.   I don't really remember the exact story of Colora, but it was a sort of fairy tale which had something to do with making the sad king smile.  In this kingdom everyone was identified by a particular color or color scheme.   A member or members of each color group had to present their talent in a skit or musical number in order to attempt to make the king smile. 

             Mrs. Toomb requested that anyone who was able to write music and wanted to participate could submit an original song or piece of music to be considered for the musical production which would be presented to the public.  Also, she asked for students to try out their talents to be a part of the production.  I had a talent to present and a song to offer.

            Since I had already played violin in a choral production earlier in the school year, I offered up my talent of juggling.  My next door neighbor, Gordon, had learned to juggle from my sister and me, and he and I auditioned a simple juggling routine.  No one else offered the talent of juggling, so Gordon and I were readily chosen to be in the production.  We were designated as the Plaid Lads and the color scheme of our costumes would be shades of green, blue, and red in a plaid pattern.  We decided to juggle brightly colored wooden croquet balls--a somewhat hazardous choice of juggling props!

          The song I submitted was an instrumental which may have been influenced by a movement of a Haydn symphony, but was originally a song I made up to taunt my sister with the ignoble lyrics: "With her pants pulled down, with her pants pulled down, she goes around with her pants pulled down." Needless to say I submitted the song sans lyrics.  It was turned into a jaunty accordion duet that was to be played by two young men whose color theme was crimson.

          The Colora production was well received by all in its two performances.  I don't really remember much of the music except for my little ditty and the opening strains of the theme song that started out, "Over the rainbow--Colora".  There were probably about twenty songs in all, each sung by soloists, ensembles, and the choir or played instrumentally or as backing for dance routines.  And of course there was Gordon and I as the juggling Plaid Lads.

           Afterwards, Mrs. Toomb was so excited by the musical that she attempted to get someone interested in having it published and presented as a professional production.  I don't know what happened with her efforts--we never heard anything about it after that.  But I think it was quite an entertaining production with some fine songs.  It was the first time one of my compositions was performed by other artists on stage before an audience.  Too bad they didn't have video cameras back then.  It would have been nice to have had that memory other than only in my mind. 


  1. How I wished also there was a video, would have loved to seen that. How we remember things from way back is amazing.


  2. Yeah, bummer you don't have that moment on tape.

  3. Aw, I too would have liked to have seen a video. Wonderful memory though :)

    Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  4. Having a video would be awesome - what a great story Lee :)

  5. All the music samples you've posted on your blog for months and you don't have a sample of your own song that we can hear? You're such a... such a... such a... Plaid Lad! :-)

    ~ D-FensDogg

  6. And if there were a video we could...put it on YouTube. :)


  7. I agree with all comments today. If I did have a good quality video I'd at least put it on my blog post and maybe on YouTube. At that time most families only had 8 MM movie cameras with no sound -- that would have lost a great deal of meaning for a musical.

  8. Oh wouldn't a video be grand! I enjoyed reading your post. I know an English teacher, Miss Blansit, reading my stories gave me encouragement. Some teachers are wonderful and inspiring.

  9. "...everyone was identified by a particular color or color scheme.."

    oh, as a psychologist, I tend to do that with real people :))

  10. Judy -- Good to hear from you! I'm going to continue my story about Mrs. Toomb next week--how some teachers try to inspire stubborn students who refuse to accept the attention.

    Dezmond -- Actually, I've taken some of those psychological tests based on color. The results have been rather interesting and seemingly quite accurate.

  11. yes, I've done that thing of telling people which colour they are, and they always seem to like it and find it accurate as well, it's a great fun and also an accurate thing as you say.

  12. You can tell all the youngsters-they're the ones wanting to see a video.

    Back when I was a yewt, we were lucky to get it on a stone tablet!

  13. Hi Arlee .. what a wonderful memory .. but as you say no video, or audio .. so we could 'put it out there now' .. but memories are good and you've told the tale ..

    Mrs Toomb sounds like a great teacher ..

    Have a great day .. Hilary

  14. But are there any photos of the Plaid Lads that can be scanned and perhaps shared? ;) All kidding aside, this story was wonderful to behold, Lee. Too often it's easy to get caught up in the complexities and hurt of youthful experiences eschewing the good and heart warming ones that were also instrumental in creating who we are. Thank you for sharing.

  15. LC -- I don't recall exactly when home video came into common use, but I guess it was early 80s. I remember getting a camera in about 1985 and it was really expensive.

    Hilary -- I'm going to write more about Mrs. Toomb on Wed 8/11.

    Kimberly -- I should ask my mother if she does have a photograph--it's possible. I had the costume in my closet for many years, but I don't know what happened to it. Maybe she still has that for all I know.


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