I had a milestone day today as I conducted my first independent singing session with a small group of over-60s at an activity day organised by Age Concern Oxfordshire. The event took place in a Methodist church centre in Witney, which was hosting a range of different activities including a creche, a coffee bar, as well as the hall being used by Age Concern.
The purpose of the activity day was to provide information for older people about services they are entitled to or may need to access, as well as giving them taster sessions of different activities: seated exercise, singing, movement to music etc.
My session lasted about 30-40 minutes and covered a range of music, starting with a gentle warm-up, and moving onto some favourites from shows and musicals. The actions for Edelweiss caused a fair amount of confusion and hilarity, and engaged the participants with the song and with each other. It is so important to give the participants something to ‘do’ with the song, be it actions, singing the song in an exaggerated style or accents, or simply encouraging the participants to make a sound in a particular way, e.g soft and quiet, or precise, staccato etc.
I finished the session with a pared-down medley of African-American Spirituals: Oh When the Saints and Swing Low Sweet Chariot. This received a round of applause from other people in the room who were not participating.
A few learning points for me:
– remember to sing more quietly and listen to the sound the group is making
– think about the pitch – is it too high or too low for participants?
– how do I cater for people with particular needs? for example, there was a man there who was blind and so could not read the words, although I deliberately chose short songs, and could not see the actions