x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

An afternoon of music and cake, all in the name of charity

The perfect compromise to Glastonbury has been created by our school in the form of an annual event titled Music Charity Love, an opportunity for budding pop musicians among the student body to perform and relax in a laid-back, open-air atmosphere.

The Glastonbury music festival is supposed to be an exciting concept, an weekend of music and partying while wallowing in a muddy field in Somerset. If it's pouring with rain, well, the colder and muddier the better – it all helps to get into the true Glastonbury spirit. Only shivering and dripping with muck isn't a state of being many people aspire for. While we teenagers enjoy the head bobbing, whooping and acting like clowns that accompanies gigs featuring our favourite pop stars, we aren't always prepared to forego our creature comforts of being warm and dry.

The perfect compromise has been created by our school in the form of an annual event titled Music Charity Love, an opportunity for budding pop musicians among the student body to perform and relax in a laid-back, open-air atmosphere. Since it's in Dubai, the chances of getting drenched are fairly nonexistent; instead the balmy spring air coupled with pleasantly breezy evenings makes the great outdoors quite agreeable. The rolling lawns of the school are ideal for spreading out the squashy bean bags and picnic mats as Lady Gaga wannabes wield mikes on the stage, the setting sun glinting off guitars being energetically strummed, drummers flinging their drumsticks into the air to whip the crowd into a frenzy and (almost always) catching them.

The charity part of Music Charity Love comes in with proceeds from the tickets and the bake sale going toward the Dhaka Project, aiming to provide underprivileged children in Bangladesh with an education, run by the Dubai-based Maria Cristina foundation. Being on the Charity Committee, we were meant to be selling tickets, organising performances, and marching into school loaded with food. If we managed to snaffle a few extra goodies for the bake sale by pleading with and coercing everyone we knew to get their oven mitts on and contribute cake and cookies, it did no harm either. A catastrophic fiasco involving a charred mixture of dough and eggs later, I simply bought a stunning-looking rhapsody in cocoa from the nearest Choithrams. After I'd eaten the piece of chocolate on top, on which was printed "Bakemart", and smudged the too-perfect roses a bit, it even looked passably homemade.

The scene of the event, when I got there, was a flurry of activity: beanbags were frantically being laid out and a pair of long-haired boys was squabbling about the best position to play a chord in over a handsome Gibson. Someone was loudly and ostentatiously hollering "Check. Check. One, two, three. Check," into a microphone with its volume turned up a notch more than necessary.

The tables, meanwhile, were groaning with the weight of the teetering mountains of delectable treats the entire school had come together to whip up when the audience began to arrive, making a beeline for us. It's wonderful how the word "charity" can make people feel so good about themselves. "Oh, I don't know, I've already had three," a young lady doubtfully contemplated the Smartie-studded cookie I was trying to sell her. She coughed up the cash immediately, though, when reminded that the more cookies she consumed, the more she'd be benefiting someone in need, and she walked away looking marginally more cheerful, carrying her cookie safely packed in a sandwich bag.

I was, as I always am in school concerts, frankly astonished by the range of talents displayed by my peers, none of whom are a day over 19. The numbers ranged from a forceful Rumour Has It and a soaring rendition of Hallelujah (the American Idol participant favourite, not the Handel version, that is) to Go the Distance from the Disney movie Hercules. An entertaining, albeit intentionally awful, spoof on the unfortunate Rebecca Black's single hit Friday was a crowd favourite, the male singer gradually becoming more and more liberal with prolonged squealing notes in a quavery falsetto.

While shimmering guitar chords and steady drumbeats were favoured as the instrumental backing for most of the songs, even trombones and pizzicato cellos found their way into the mix, a tribute to the diversity of musical tastes and abilities among teenagers.

The evening having been a fair success, the general air of the charity committee members was one of being extremely pleased with themselves. Although I've participated in a fair few concerts and recitals, and spend generously at bake sales, it was a fulfilling experience being on the other side of the counter as part of the organising team for once – especially the bit where the opportunity to nick some of the leftover red velvet cupcakes presented itself.


The writer is a 16-year-old student in Dubai