Inspirational Workshop Leaders

This is part two of the posts referring to the Alzheimer’s Society training day in Theale on 15th April 2011.

Aside from the song-share and the Communicating with People with Dementia presentation, most of the day was led by Mary King and Fraser Trainer.

The day began with an hour-long vocal warm-up led by Mary – and I’ve got to say it was a wonderful luxury; my voice felt good and free afterwards. It was a great refresher too – reminding me of technique I forgot I knew and helping to tighten it up again and think about my voice and vocals with renewed clarity.

This was followed by the teaching of two well-known spirituals – Wade in the Water and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. The main point that came out for me here was the use of speech and speaking the words in rhythm – really thoroughly, and with no inhibition about repeating every last line multiple times – before introducing the notes. Not only did the time spent on this help very thorough learning of the structure and words of the song, it also helped everyone pick up the syncopation, something I struggle to convey to groups of singers who don’t naturally ‘feel’ syncopated rhythms.

A warm-up of the next session comprised circle games: passing the clap around the circle, passing the ‘shhhh’, passing them both in opposite directions. Another was for everyone’s little fingers to touch, and anticipate the clap of the leader, or the clap of two leaders… all about group awareness, and getting comfortable as a group.

Fraser then led the group composition. This was delivered in a number of steps:

1. A pulse was established

2. We were asked to think of a short phrase of 5-6 words.

3. say those words in a repeating rhythm

4. Sing the words in rhythm on one note (D)

5. Sing the words in rhythm using different notes (Dorian mode)

6. The sound was pared down to 6 phrases, forming small groups

7. Chose 1 phrase which everyone sings and harmonises.

What did the group composition feel like? Lots of repetition, and trusting the facilitator to mould the sounds, sculpt, so you could hear different parts. Was it our piece or was it Fraser’s piece? We all created our own unique chunk of it, though I imagine it would be possible to give everyone the ‘sculpting’ tools, as in drum circle facilitation. It was exciting and energising for us. I’d love to try it at a singing for the brain group, but only with lots of volunteers who have been primed!

After lunch Mary led us in the learning of several new songs including: Senwa de Dende, Tomorrow is Another Day and Travellin’. Her expertise in vocal technique was the real bonus here, and I enjoyed the use of Boal’s Games for Actors and Non-actors (the classic mirror, for example) and use of eye-contact with people around the room (something I often feel inhibited about). One exercise sticks out for me, which was in two circles to pass objects around, without looking down, whilst singing a song which is in cannon to the other circle, and then changing direction you pass the objects – lots of concentration and co-ordination required! Mary also touched on conveying emotions through song which again was very helpful – if we’re singing loud, why? or quiet, why? Thinking inside –> outside.

The whole day was incredibly inspiring and energising, from the input, but also because it was great to see fellow Singing for the Brain leaders and volunteers.

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