Friday, August 24, 2007

Family Time

A few weeks back Mrs. DocLarry and I traveled north to visit the parental units as well as my Canadian niece and nephew. Oh, and their parents, my sister and the Canook. Given the many miles between Ozarkland and Canada I don't often get to see my only niece and nephew, so I consider such visits special. My parents are also getting up there in years, my father suffering from Parkinson's.

This trip proved to be extra special as we viewed a DVD of my niece performing at a national Orff conference. Never heard of Orff? Neither had I until this happened. And it is really quite fascinating. From the Orff Canada web site:

Carl Orff (1895-1982) is probably best known as the composer of such works as Carmina Burana and Catulli Carmina, but it is his work with "Music for Children" which has inspired a global movement in music education.

The Orff approach to Music Education is holistic, experiential and process oriented. It is for all children, not just the most musically or intellectually gifted and encompasses aural, visual and kinesthetic learners.

Orff's philosophy is based on solid, pedagogical principles. A structured, sequential development of knowledge and skills encourages joyful participation, creativity, and personal musical growth from all participants. The Orff approach taps the very essence of our beings. Children learn through doing, exploring and improvising. They are active participants in an integrated, guided process, one which allows for differing musical abilities. In the Orff approach, no child is neglected.

The Orff philosophy combines the elements of speech, rhythm, movement, dance, and song. And at the heart of all this is improvisation - the instinct children have to create their own melodies, to explore their imaginations.
The organization holds a national conference every two years and schools compete to perform at the conference. My niece was a member of a group chosen to perform, and ultimately wowed the audience. It's hard to describe an Orff performance. Students play recorders, the metallophone, xylophone, glockenspiel, and other percussive instruments, as well as perform dance and some voice work.

The effects of Parkinson's are showing in my father, but seemed to lessen somewhat when he was around his grandchildren. I enjoyed sitting on the sidelines watching the interaction between grandparent and child, especially when both would end up with big grins.

And while I know it's not a competition, I've often felt a bit overshadowed by my brother when it comes to being an uncle. He lives in Iowa so the Canadians always see him when visiting the grandparents. His location also makes a trip to Canada a bit easier and he's visited them far more often than I.

However, this visit, I got to be the "fun" uncle. On our last day I got into a pillow fight. My nephew started it, but my niece soon joined in for a two-front attack. The nephew had no qualms about climbing aboard Uncle Doc Larry, putting a pillow across my face blinding me to the flanking attack of his sister. Silliness abounded, noise was made, photos were snapped, and DocLarry napped on the drive back to Springtown.

The best part? The smile on my father's face and the laughter in his eyes.