Great Acting, a Chocolate Stand and a Scary Tale
Each year the school organized a concert for the parents and the general public. We students would sing in a choir, recite poetry, and put on plays. In this annual event we had an opportunity to showcase our artistic achievements. As to the drama performance this year, Frau Schroff was especially ambitious. She selected a medieval play, the farcical comedy: The Wandering Scholar from Paradise. The author Hans Sachs gained international fame as the central figure of Richard Wagner’s opera: Die Meisteresinger von Nürnberg. Sachs was a Meistersinger or mastersinger, who plied his trade as a shoemaker in the city of Nurnberg. He was also a creative narrator in the local guild of poets and musicians. ‘The Wandering Scholar from Paradise’ is about a farmer’s gullible wife, who falls victim to a traveling student’s claim that he had seen her beloved first husband in paradise. Frau Schroff decided that I would be the best candidate to play the role of the wandering student. And I did not disappoint her. As it turned out this challenging comedy was such a success on our modest school stage that we three actors received a standing ovation. Needless to say our teacher was beaming with pride over our success. At the end of the concert, she took me aside to tell me that I had earned with my spectacular performance the price of a new ruler. She also promised not to write that ominous letter to my parents. So I did not only bask in the glory of a wonderful performance that evening, but I also felt a great relief from the anxiety caused by my recklessness in the classroom.
It is one thing to do something creative because it is a school function, such as organized and directed by a competent teacher. It is quite another when young children prompted by their own inspiration start an activity strictly for their own enjoyment. This is exactly what happened in a group of seven boys, which we called ‘The Rohrdorf Village Musicians’. Once or twice a week, when the weather was fine and the grass was dry, we would get together on a sunny hillside between the Upper and Lower Village at least two km away from the nearest farmhouse, where nobody could disturb us during band practice. Our immensely talented bandleader was Klaus. His personality radiated confidence and enthusiasm. I remember the energetic movements of his arms, hands and fingers controlling our musical endeavors with the élan worthy of a professional conductor. But what was there to conduct, since we had hardly any musical instruments? There were only two, one was a tin bucket placed upside down, which served in combination with two wooden spoons as the drum section. The other was slightly more complicated and consisted of a large comb with widely spaced teeth and a sheet of wax paper loosely wrapped around it. The musician had to hum and barely touch the wax paper with his lips to create a rasping musical note. Today one can buy a metallic kazoo for as little as two dollars. The boys without instruments would add variety to the sonorous qualities of the kazoo and the tinny clang of the drum by whistling and humming. My friend Günther even managed to complement the drum by clicking his tongue. I for my part added tonal depth to the ensemble by creating a flute-like sound. To do this I clasped both hands, interlocked my fingers and thus created a hollow between my palms. All I had to do was to blow at a certain angle between the thumbs changing the pitch by expanding or contracting the cavity. With each band session our repertoire of the most common German folksongs grew until we were able to play for half an hour without repeating any of the tunes. Even though we never played for others, it was a most enjoyable experience, a definite highlight of my childhood years.