Thursday, April 24, 2014

Vacuum Less, Sweep More!! Rhythm workshop with broomsticks

This is a resolution of mine that our recent Rhythm Workshop is now helping me attain. I have to say, however, that it takes me longer to get the sweeping done, because I end up flipping the broom upside down, grabbing a dowel-like object, usually a wooden spoon, and shuffling in circles trying to remember
Patty's cat watches her with disdain
Patty`s cat, Beatrice
that Offbeat pattern. Hey, it's fun.

And it either amuses or frightens my cat - interestingly enough, exactly how I felt when we were learning it.
Two things to note.
First, you truly need the whole group with you to get the maximum benefit.
Second, I always end up chuckling - at something that happened in the workshop.
I think it's safe to say we all 'got' the first part of the workshop. Pitch, harmonies, maintaining pitch, odd intervals. So, why the sticks and dowels?? And what about the Rhythm Workshop title "Can You Do It? Yes You Can" ? Might have gone more like "Can You Do It? Alright then, sure I'll try. Ok, no I can't. Well…..maybe. Sometimes. Ok, more often now. Oh, I'm rockin' these sticks. Are you kidding? Add a tap and return?????".
The underlying purposes of Pete's warmups reveal themselves, not always immediately, but with an eventual 'aha' moment - "there's that pattern, that note jump, that tendency to go flat".
Offbeat, Pierre's percussion group -- inspired by Stomp
Offbeat, Pierre's percussion group -- inspired by Stomp
I asked Pete to recap what we were 'actually' working on with those sticks. His answer - "coordination, rhythm, listening and when you 'get' it, solid entries".
My list of what I learned is somewhat more general. I wonder if any of it will resonate with you? Seems to me that most of our senses were at work. We were watching each other and our teachers so intensely, feeling ourselves and others shifting from frustration to optimism (and back again a number of times), seeing the amusement, the smiles, the concentration, the awkwardness, the touch of the sticks, the feel of the rhythms and their vibrations, a sense of pride in our young Offbeat instructors along with a pinch of envy at the ease with which they worked the sticks, hearing the laughter, hearing and feeling the rhythm when we got it, and when we didn't.
As for smell, at the start, it sure felt like my brain was smoking. I also wondered whether we could eventually generate fire with those sticks (throwing them in a pile and torching them would have done the trick).
Taste? I think it made us hungry and thirsty and the New Edinburgh pub obliged.
Above all, I believe that our Rhythm Workshop generated a sensation I've noticed, especially in a cappella groups. It's as if there are some compositions you just feel in your bones. You're confident that everyone knows the music, you look up more often, you clearly hear and anticipate others' parts as well as your own, you feel the music, you sing with energy, your body moves to the music, you feel more of a bond to each other and with the audience. The music becomes as much a dance as a melody. Rather magical.
Thank-you, Pierre, for showing us a fun and unique way to nurture and celebrate that visceral part of singing. I think we all trust the 'madness' to Pete's methods. This time I literally felt it! Hmmm.... I wonder if there's a chance for it to become a more regular part of rehearsals? If not, my broom is standing by.
By guest blogger/soprano, Patty Morrison

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