Home > Uncategorized > Glee a la Guangdong

Glee a la Guangdong

There’s something that, in these past few months, has put a little zing into my busy week at UIC. It sprouted from the weekly pop club meetings, and the fact that twenty minutes wrangling twenty five non-singers isn’t going to produce even a two minute song, much less an entire performance’s worth.

Not that I need the spotlight. I just was told all these rumors about 30 percent of Chinese people having perfect pitch, due to the tonal linguistic-nurture. Thank you NPR, for raising my expectations. Although I guess if I thought harder about it, I would’ve figured out that 30 percent only seems like a lot…


Our eight-member Glee Club performance took even me by surprise at the International Culture and Language Conference dinner back in December, prompting one of the drunken conference goers to stall our final number in enthusiasm.

“THIS! This is what we need more of here at UIC!” She’d shouted, standing, brandishing a plastic cup of Portuguese wine. My students held their pose for the final piece, trying not to laugh, hands behind their back, heads lowered. I’d already started sounding Rob’s first falsetto note on the upper e-string.

For some reason even when they practice now, whenever they get into that pose, the giggling begins.

Apparently later that night, the conference goer had picked up several paper lanterns from the table and done a Salome-style dance for the English Department. I missed it, because I’d taken the group to Sichuan food. On the white board from which Meg’s already erased the Star War’s cast list, it’s named as the number one funniest moment of our UIC experience.

This semester, after the first meeting of the lunchtime pop club, as I signed the last of the attendance sheets and the students rushed to their afternoon classes, I saw my contingent leaning on the first two rows of desks, agendas open in front of them. “Hey! Hey! Hey! When does practice start?” they shouted at me.

These students spent their high school years going to class from 8am until 8pm, and this is their first exposure to extracurricular activities, the first time they’ve been away from their families, and the first time they’ve been permitted to date. The girls still carry purses that are giant zip-up teddy bears, holding hands with their best friends. For most of them, these will be the only four years of self-discovery separated in any small way from extreme filial responsibility.

The ones who seem to be so passionate of this group, though, remind me of my friends from my high school, complete with relationship angst, ambiguity and fragile friendships: the best-girlfriends who appear at every rehearsal and run up to hug me in the hallway, who are obsessed with musical theater and join as many clubs as they can stay awake for; the boys on the rugby team who have great voices and hoot at me whenever they see me from across the campus; he serial dater with flashy yellow shoes who, though cocky, put out his blue cigarette without a word a second after I told him they would make him lose his high notes.

“What do you guys want to sing?” I’d asked.

“LADY GAGA!” The three tallest boys in the group shouted, and immediately launched into a warbling rendition of “Bad Romance”– “RAH-RAH-AH-AAAAAH!” They shouted, hopping in a circle around me. I cringed. But this isn’t my college experience—so I gave them what they wanted, printing out lyric sheets and having them sing along with the recording.

To my relief, halfway through the song they collapsed on the writing center desks crying, “It’s too long! We cannot do it!”

We have a new portfolio and two new members, due to the apparent loss one of the girls who had formerly been dating the boy with the yellow shoes. She’d told me that she couldn’t come anymore because…she didn’t know how to say it… “Too awkward?” I’d said, then explained in my simple English what that means. She nodded and apologized. I sighed. I’d recruited a new boy and girl. She’s going to be hard to replace. But I remember how high school felt too.

We’re sticking with the old songs and adding some Jason Mraz, Corinne Bailey Rae, Queen, more Mika by popular demand and (we’re totally cornball but I swear it was their idea) some Journey. Yeah, you know why.

  1. Rosemary
    March 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    I, too, wish I could have seen the Salome paper lantern dance! I’m glad you are having such a great time with your club!

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