16 June 2012

Singing workshop with Zerafina Zara - 2 June

The workshop was well-attended, with 18 people gathering in the Scout Hall for 3 hours of singing with experienced voice coach Zerafina Zara. We had a range of choral singers, experienced soloists and beginners.
Zerafina encouraged us to talk about what we wanted to get out of the workshop, and who our favourite singers are. Then it was into the warmups  and voice training, with lots of peculiar noises and funny faces, and quite a bit of technical information about how the human voice works. Zerafina has  a great way of passing on lots of information, making you work hard, but still making it fun.
After a tea break we moved on to the “stagecraft” aspect of singing. Many participants had expressed interest in improving their stage presence and countering nerves, so Zerafina led a discussion about what makes a great singing performance, which really made us think.
Then she led us into the most adventurous part of the workshop - a “silly-off” where we learned a simple song and then competed to be the “silliest” performer, with the most exaggerated and outrageous gestures and movements. The amazing thing was, after doing this for a while and then reverting to a normal performance style, we all found we had become more expressive and comfortable with being a performer. A wonderful learning experience!

13 June 2012

Sibelius Workshop - Joining the Dots ...

The Folk Club's Sibelius Workshop was held at Outlets on Sat June 9.  Annette Fechener, a local composer ran the session and there were three very keen students of Sibelius ready to learn the skills.

Alan Davies purchased a copy of Sibelius for the folk club and we had three computers to use.  This meant that it was very hands on and most engaging.  Fran had downloaded a 30 day trial version of the program – for future reference this is something that could have been publicised beforehand and may have encouraged others to come along. 

Annette was a fantastic teacher.  We provided her with a data show projector and she brought her own computer and this was a really effective way of introducing people to the basics of the program and providing them exercises to follow.  Annette had prepared a folder of information, short-cuts and exercises for people to work on and to take home, and the group was duly impressed by this preparation and her insight into the program.  As a result people quickly gained the skills, and this lead to a sense of empowerment which stimulated quite an exciting vibe (Whoo! I can do this!) as people learnt and were able to show off their accomplishments. 

The value of the workshop? 
-          We have three people in the club who have developed their music writing skills and can use Sibelius to write melodies, chord charts, and parts for groups.  This is a significant achievement. 
-        The folk club has a registered copy of Sibelius that we can use in the future
-          This was another opportunity for Outlets, and Therese to again support the aims of the folk club (thanks Therese)
-        We have tapped in to the talents of a local composer - Annette
-        The session was a really social learning environment – this is one of the great benefits of the folk club in that it provides people with a place to come together, socialise and learn within the context of a shared interest in music.  

So despite not pulling a big crowd the workshop was successful.  It will be interesting to see the fruits of the learning over the next twelve months. 

Michael Stewart

 Annnette (left) shows Fran the shortcuts for writing tunes on Sibelius

08 June 2012

Vale Doc Watson

Arriving home from work last Wednesday I got online as usual to cruise the newspaper websites and was saddened to see that one one the great folk musicians had passed away. Arthel 'Doc' Watson was a legendary performer and one widely credited as being a key driver of the American folk music revival in the 1960's. He won seven Grammy Awards and was officially regarded as an American National Treasure by the US government.

I first heard Doc's wonderful guitar and rich baritone voice in my early teens and was immediately entranced. I remember catching the train from Lilydale to the city to pick up some of Doc's records from the great and now defunct shop 'Folk'n'Word' in Fitzroy. I (and countless other young guitarists around the world) spent the next few years trying to emulate what Doc was doing on guitar.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview Doc prior to a show he did in Carnegie Hall, Lewisberg, North Carolina in 1998. He was generous to a fault and invited me to pop back to see him for a chat after the show. We had a great time and he told me how as a child he often used to use his ham radio to listen to broadcasts from Australia. I treasure the memory of that chat (as my long suffering friends know) and still raise a smile when I think of it.

Doc lived a rich and long life, although he was touched by tragedy in the mid 1980's when his son Merle was killed in a tractor accident. He was married to Rosa Lee Carlton whom he told me was his 'Shady Grove' for 66 years. He bought joy and finger-busting challenges to myself and probably millions of others. Whilst I only met him the once, he had a major impact on my playing and life, and he will be missed.

Bruce Williams
Newport Folk and Fiddle Club

Blog Archive