On Saturday night, Lydia Miranda will stand side by side with her Alpha Kai Omega sisters ready to take the Sing Song stage one last time. The girls will anxiously chatter as they prepare to take their place and perform the act they all know by heart. They will anticipate the moment the curtain rises, but no one will be as nervous as Miranda.
For her, it’s more than just the pinnacle of weeks of hard work. For Miranda, senior elementary education major from Clarksville, Tennessee, it’s the chance to perform her grandfather’s last Sing Song arrangement.
Miranda’s grandfather, Dr. Ed George, has been arranging Sing Song acts longer than Miranda has been alive. His first arrangement was for Frater Sodalis in 1958. And last year was supposed to be his last year.
George ( ’61) has served as the orchestra director and taught multiple music courses at ACU over the past 46 years from music theory to private saxophone lessons.
“I think I’ve taught every music class at one time or another,” he said.
The Sing Song act-writing veteran was composing for Sing Song when acts consisted of just one song. While he hasn’t arranged every year, some years he’s done three or four acts.
“I’ve probably averaged one a year, so I’m sure it adds up to about 57,” George said.
His roster of arrangements includes GATA, Galaxy, Frats, Pi Kappa, Sigma Theta Chi and even a few class acts.
Writing Sing Song music is an intensive process, George said. In December, when school lets out for break, George gets busy right away composing music for the lyrics the students have written.
“It’s white heat from then until they come back to campus, “George said. “I have to do all that work in a very small amount of time.”
Composing music for one act can take 20-30 hours to write. He said the process of fitting the songs chosen by the directors together in an act is the most difficult.
“My challenge has been, over the years, to take those 10 or 12 songs and piece them together with the lyrics they’ve written and put them in the right keys and the right range to where they sound good and where there’s a smooth transition from one song to the next,” George said.
And then, after the student directors get the chance to look over the music, the rewriting process begins.
“Sometimes they choose one thing and say, ‘No, this is not how we want it, let’s do this.’ And sometimes within a week of looking at it, they’ll come back and say, ‘The way we had it first was better,'” George said.
As he approaches 80, George said the process becomes increasingly stressful.
“I’m a basket case in the third week of January,” he said. “I’m exhausted because I spent every waking moment in there in my studio.”
Miranda said she knows the stress of composing the acts is building on her granddad.
“I’ve been expecting his last year for the past four years now,” she said.
But George surprised her when she asked him to arrange AKO’s act and he said yes.
“Earlier on, I had toyed with the idea of saying, you know, ‘Get someone else,’ but she said ‘One more year,'” George said. “And this is her last year, so I thought, ‘Why not?'”
Miranda was touched because she knew since he said yes to her club, he’d also say yes to the other clubs that were asking for his help.
“I opened up this whole door of months of work that he had to do,” Miranda said.
But even so, it took nothing for him to agree to write her act.
During Christmas break, Miranda spent two weeks working with her grandfather on her club’s Sing Song act, incorporating the suggestions she and AKO’s director had for the music onto paper.
George said he enjoyed sharing his passion with Miranda.
“It was really neat to work with a grandchild, especially in Sing Song,” he said.
Miranda said she got the chance to look over her granddad’s shoulder as he worked.
“It was such an amazing experience because he is so talented,” Miranda said. “He can literally listen to it and like write it out. That’s all he has to do, he doesn’t even need to reference it because he has such musical capabilities.”
However, because she was with him as he wrote it, she felt a huge responsibility to the women of Alpha Kai while she taught the music.
“It was very nerve-wracking teaching something that someone I look up to so much has written for me,” Miranda said.
And if teaching it wasn’t terrifying enough, Miranda said performing the act for George at their rehearsal was even more intimidating.
“I was thinking, ‘If I sing too loudly, he’s going to know it’s me, but if I sing too soft, he’s going to know it’s me, too,'” she said.
But in the end, George was proud of the hard work Miranda and her club had done to perfect his arrangement.
“He just kept saying, ‘It’s good, Lydia, it’s good,'” Miranda said. “And for my granddad, that’s a huge deal.”
Miranda said that as the performance draws closer, she is prepared for emotion to run high but not just because she is performing with her club for the last time.
“I think it being my grandfather’s show is going to play a big aspect in it being my emotional distraught,” she said.
For Miranda, it won’t be about winning the judges’ opinions, because to her, the act is already a winner.
“A very large deal of Sing Song and our show comes down to him and the fact that he was able to write it so masterfully,” Miranda said.
As long as she knows her granddad is in the audience supporting her final Sing Song act, that’s all that matters, she said.
“I just want us to do our best to impress him, because to me, he’s a big deal in my life,” Miranda said. “I really just wanted him to love it. I’ve always just wanted to make him proud, since I was little.”