Dr Jim’s Lemov Moments

At the moment when Jim Henry served as guest educator at the Directors Weekend I ran for the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers back in July, I had just spent two months dipping into Doug Lemov’s intensely useful book Teach Like a Champion. Having by then written a good handful of blog posts about how Lemov’s classroom techniques can play out in the choral rehearsal (and having made notes for more posts, which came along later), my brain was primed to spot them in action. And Dr Jim - seamlessly and without fanfare - provided a walking compendium of their application throughout the weekend.

Here are some of Dr Jim’s Lemov’s moments. You can see him in action in the clip above, but these comments come from notes made over the entire three days

The Meaning of Keys at Green Street Blues


Sunday saw the LABBS Convention-preparation season continue with my friends from Green Street Blues. They are taking two of my arrangements to contest this year, one that they commissioned and first performed a few years back, and another newly arranged for them earlier this year.

As might be expected from this programme, we spent far more time on the new song, exploring its structure as a means to develop the expressive shape of the performance, in particular in relation to the pattern of tonal centres the arrangement uses.

(This is fun. I am always careful not to spoil the big reveal when premieres are coming up, so I won’t tell you what song it is. But I can tell you which keys bits of it are in, and leave you to try and guess what song it could be. The original song stays in one key throughout, so you’ll be guessing from the emotional content of the lyrics. If you don’t want to play the guessing game, of course, then just come along to Bournemouth next month and they’ll sing it to you.)

Developing Section Leaders

Since I had to travel down to Plymouth the day before my coaching day with Brunel Harmony, their director Delyth Knight had a brainwave about how to use the evening before. Her family are involved in the musical leadership of several choruses in the area, so she felt it would be a good opportunity to offer a training session to section leaders/music team members from several of them together.

Interestingly, I have been toying with offering training for music teams as a specific service for a while, as it strikes me as a way to support the ensemble’s development in a way that could add significant value relative to the time spent. And, whilst there are plenty of training opportunities to develop the musical and vocal skills these roles need, there is relatively little support for how to develop the coaching and mentoring skills they often entail.

Then, while I was toying with these ideas, two directors got in touch independently to ask about them. It is starting to look like an idea whose time has come.

Brunel Harmony and the Integrated Song

BrunelI spent Saturday working with Brunel Harmony on the contest package they are preparing for the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers Convention in October. They had got to the point where things were generally in place - music and choreography largely embedded, and the overall concept and intentions clear - so what it needed next was a combination of polishing of execution and bringing out the details.

What we found ourselves doing to achieve this, though, was integrating technical control of the various performance elements with a sense of characterisation and narrative. It was a classic example of how you can start with any one item of technique, and find that as you explore it, it turns out to be connected with all kinds of other areas, both technical and expressive.

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