Scunthorpe Festival of Choirs

bathshallSunday took me up to Scunthorpe to participate in a Festival of Choirs at the rather wonderful Baths Hall. It was an ambitious day’s music-making, with an afternoon of workshops followed by a combined concert involving nine choirs in the evening. It became clear in conversation that it had also attracted a considerable number of singers who weren’t in the concert choirs along to the workshops (and, I would hope, as audience members). The place was thronged, and had a really lively buzz about it. They were already plotting to repeat the experience next year.

I had been asked to do a workshop on barbershop, running it twice with two different groups. It was an interesting challenge - we had just over an hour in which to both introduce the central elements of the style and get a good amount of meaningful music-making done. It would be all too easy to spend the whole time grappling with notes and words without finding space to put the resultant chords and meanings into context. Equally, it was important that the participants spent a lot more time singing than I did talking.

Learning Jokes...

This is not what learning should look likeThis is not what learning should look likeOr, I should say, the role of jokes in learning. Although I’ve not been out doing comedy gigs in the last handful of months (for various reasons which I’ve shared with my comedy friends, but not blogged about here as they’re tangential at best to my musical life), the things I have learned in that world continue to resonate pleasingly with my core identity as musician and musical facilitator.

Now, I’ve always played for laughs in my teaching, especially with larger groups. And it’s actually much easier to crack jokes successfully in a teaching context than it is in a stand-up comedy context, because you know your audience much better. One thing that going out telling jokes to roomfuls of strangers teaches you is to appreciate it when you come across a room full of people about whom you know a lot in terms of background, interests and cultural referents, if only in the one dimension that brings them all together.

Choral Values, an Addendum

magentalogoPartway through my recent reflections on choral values, I was suddenly visited with a memory from Magenta’s early days that I had not thought about for ages. I thought it might have slipped into one of those other posts as an example, but the place for it never arose. So, I thought I’d just share it with you in a different post.

Magenta started via a workshop evening which I advertised around the area and at which I gave a taster of the kind of things we’d be doing, then invited the attendees to be the founder members of this new choir. Those who were interested filled in an application form, first half of which was basically contact info, and the second half of which asked four questions:

Conductors in Cornwall

Delegates and singersDelegates and singers

I spent yesterday down in Saltash, near Plymouth, running a workshop for choral directors from the area. It was organised and hosted by Brunel Harmony, who also provided singers for the directors to be coached working with, and involved 19 current, assistants and aspiring directors from 10 local choirs and choruses, with levels of experience ranging from decades in the job to complete novices.

It can be quite difficult for people living in the country’s peripheries to get up to training events, which are - not surprisingly - usually held in more central regions. So it makes a lot of sense to import workshops instead of travelling out to them, not just logistically and economically, but also in terms of the opportunities for networking. However exciting it is to meet conductors from across the country, it is more useful, on a day-to-day basis, to get to know your neighbours.

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