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.

Quantum Coaching

Same sofa, same hippo, different quartetSame sofa, same hippo, different quartetSunday afternoon brought a new quartet, Quantum, around for some coaching. They’re new as a quartet, but have a considerable amount of barbershop experience between them, and, oddly enough, the only one I didn’t already know happens to live just round the corner from me. So that was handy for them.

For any quartet in their early days - no matter how much prior experience they have between them - one of the primary tasks is building the ensemble. All their previous quartets will have developed musicianship and vocal control and performance skills which will come in useful for this task, but the actual crafting of their new sound and modes of delivery is still from scratch. So, we started straight in on duetting as the primary tool for all the singers to learn about each other’s voices.

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