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Sunday, April 07, 2013

GIJF Day 2: Workshop: An Introduction To Vocal Improvisation: At GOTH

Lindsay Hannon (tutor)
(Review by Ann Alex).
About 18 of us, mostly women, gathered at Gateshead Old Town Hall, to find out about exploring our voices in order to use them adventurously and hopefully musically.  We started with relaxation exercises and some rather raw sounds, and by the end of the session we’d produced 2 viable pieces of a capella music, working in 2 separate groups, so this was a very successful, well taught session.
These workshops always begin with yawning, stretching and various odd vocal sounds, which must sound very strange to those outside the room. We practised such things as keeping to the beat over 4 beat bars, by doing this in turn without missing a beat, much harder than it sounds.  Many singers can do this when singing something from the gasbook, but I find that actually doing it as an exercise is something else.  Yet this is an essential skill for working with musicians, as the music will continue regardless, the singer just has to keep to the time.  We then sang variations on 1 note over 4 beats, and as the group by now felt comfortable with each other, we had musical conversations, in pairs.  This is great fun, and you can’t help but interact and work with each other’s sounds.  Try it at home sometime!
We sang repeated riffs in groups, which I find quite moving, it reminds me of African village music.  We had built up to the final task, which involved us in planning a short piece of improvised music.  Our group based the piece on the idea of beginning, middle and end, in 3 sections with a rich-sounding bass voice introduction, and a lovely, lyrical solo from one of the women, Joanne.  The other group did lively skilled vocal variations with many solos, smashing to listen to. Many thanks to Lindsay, who was hampered by having a nasty cold, so she produced some interesting vocal sounds of her own!
So next time you listen to a jazz singer, remember that we don’t just open our mouths hoping something good will float out, there’s thought behind it, about bars etc, and not just bars where you can get drinks!
Ann Alex

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