30 April 2012

Folk, Mini-Operas, Cries of London

I had a lovely day trying out something new with young musicians from the RNIB; I often don my folk hat as a performer these days, but haven’t really led workshops using much traditional music, so this was the perfect opportunity to get stuck into some fresh songs and approaches. We co-arranged a beautiful vocal version of The Unthanks’ Newcastle Lullaby (I insisted upon pronouncing this in the Northumbrian fashion, naturally…) and then worked on arranging Jamie Woon’s take on Wayfarin’ Stranger. This was transformed from Jamie’s own loop vocal arrangement into a version for an ensemble including voices, percussion, recorders, flute, double bass, ‘cello and harpsichord. Brilliant! In the afternoon, the group divided up to have a go at arranging two London-based folk songs, and created wonderful fresh sounds including unusual seascapes for these traditional numbers. The performance to parents at the end of the day was great, and Sally from the RNIB said she would have thought it was being performed by adults if she was just listening. That’s good enough for me!

St Saviour’s finished off their mini-opera about the battle for Land and Sea in some style, with an afternoon filming a concert version of the music and then some action scenes that Darren, our cameraman, will drop in. Naturally, most of the class, when asked what they had enjoyed most about the project, was filming the fight scene; but I like to think they also did very well writing melismas on glockenspiels for our fabulous visiting baritone Bradley, instinctively singing recitative-style, and creating a rip-roaring story way better than some operas can boast. I’m looking forward to seeing the results!

Back to some more customary workshops with four classes of Year 5 boys from King’s College School in Wimbledon, where they have happily created musical collages in voices and percussion inspired by street sounds that might (or might not!) have been around in Handel’s day. Here’s an example of a choral/harpsichord version!

And here's a version with added percussion to evoke church bells, footsteps, horses' hooves and carriage wheels:

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