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Bebop Spoken There

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Jazz Singers – Enhance Your Skills with Bulgarian Singing

(By Ann Alex).
Lance thought it was most amusing when I said that I was going to a Bulgarian Singing Workshop. This was at the Sage on Wednesday December 18 and was lead by Katherine Zeserson, and very useful and enjoyable for the 30 or so people taking part.  This type of folk singing is usually performed unaccompanied, out of doors, with big natural voices, no vibrato, and has a sort of ‘earthy feel’.  Very different from jazz singing so far. 
The bit that helped me as a would-be jazz singer was to do with the way the harmonies are constructed.  Many songs are in 3 parts, with 1 voice doing a drone, another voice singing a ‘crooked’ drone, that is the original drone with small differences, and the third voice singing the tune.  The intervals between notes are much smaller than we are used to, quarter tones or less.  We practised singing slightly sharp or flat against the drone, fascinating to try.  When a whole choir does this you get a shimmering type of sound, which has to be heard to be believed.  The songs also have tricky Balkan rhythms, which are best learned  by walking to the rhythm.  It struck me that these exercises were useful for jazz singers, especially for improvisation and scat.  Mock not, Lance!
We then attended a concert of this music by Bulgarian Voices Angelite, conducted by Georgi Petkov, who is also a composer whose work has been played by such bands as The Chieftains.  This featured religious songs, folk-based tunes and lots of individual singing, including what we would consider to be scat singing, as part of a song Dumba, which was a cheerful song about a group of women working together.
It seems to me that it’s a good idea to experience as many types of singing as possible.  
Ann Alex

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