Sunday, May 15, 2016
[A word about why I dislike the regalia: I have always understood it to be derived from the vestments of a religious organization that shall go nameless, and I have a personal problem with any organized religion (and any accoutrements thereof) at the best of times...]
My first year doing it, I wanted to take a panoramic shot from the stage. However, I ran into a big problem. A lot of non-Scotsmen will rent a kilt for the day to celebrate in traditional way. Obviously, they don't wear underwear because they want the full experience. However, as it turns out, they don't know how to properly sit in a kilt. Let's just say there's a reason we don't take pictures of the audience from the stage.
The ceremony proper took place in the basketball arena, which created a hard seating limit. "You tell grandma she can't come" was a regular complaint. Each springtime saw the rebirth of a black market in graduation tickets and a premium on friendships with people from small families.
Prior to the ceremony we had to reenact a tradition: the whole of the graduating class crossing campus in our robes, from the Wren Building to the New Campus. Charming, yes, I'm sure. But during my graduation, the weather made another of its frequent efforts to return the land to its natural state as a swamp. Heavy rain, wind, and heat pushed hard to displace the humans in favor of mosquitoes and possum. Did this torrent, heat, and humidity prevent the walk? Oh my, no. Tradition!
The bulk of the ceremony proper consisted of a thousand-plus folks in dripping polyester robes squishing in their folding chairs and wishing the speakers would hurry up.
The funny thing is, I actually remember part of the commencement speaker's speech because he played to this. George H.W. Bush, several years out of office, gave a short, pleasant speech with the usual platitudes instantly forgotten, but supplemented with an anecdote. Back at Yale in the olden days, a clergyman officiating at graduation orated about the virtues of a gentleman by taking one letter from the name "Yale" and expounding on it at great length: "Y represents...", "A represents...", and so on. As the man droned, one of the graduating students whispered to his friends, "Thank God I didn't go to The College of William and Mary."
Brought the house down, that did.
I can't tell you how many school events I've been to where the band, orchestra or even the school choir have been present, but silent, as the invited soloist(s) have crooned their own "stylized" version of the anthem to a fidgety crowd. If you're going to use the anthem in your ceremony, let everyone sing (and skip the vocal gymnastics).
For some reason, non-musician administrators are convinced that the anthem needs a "song leader." Just have the MC of the event announce "please rise and join us in our national anthem," have the drummer start that first drumroll, and watch how everyone that wants to sing, sings. Most everyone will. It's easy.
And for what it's worth, choose a lower key for the anthem. B-flat is too damn high. A-flat is always an option and works well. G major is even better, but the musicians may need to prepare a special arrangement; it's not standard.
I'm firmly in favor of indoor ceremonies.
In contrast, my CC gets to borrow a really large facility so there is no shortage of seats for families. No tickets needed, partly because the more "traditional" transfer students skip the ceremony. But all of the "first in family" are there, and some of those families can make more noise than an air horn! It is a blast.
And, as you note, the shoes can be AMAZING.