Our ‘Folk Song Challenge’ – has been a great success with 32 videos published so far, everything from unaccompanied traditional songs to contemporary folk music, tunes played on instruments, grandchildren and grandparents performing – so much talent out there.
Now to our next challenge! Many of you will know that this coming weekend should have been our West End to Broadway course and concert. We know how much many of you were looking forward to it, so what better challenge to follow Rachel’s Folk Song Challenge than Rachel’s Musicals Challenge!
Backing tracks for many well known songs can be found on Youtube – for example, type in Backing track for Memory from Cats and you’ll see lots of versions come up. And, of course, you can always simple sing or play a melody without accompaniment. Instrumental renditions are just as welcome as vocal performances.
In this video Rachel introduces the challenge and there’s a ‘taster’ of a musicals video created by some familiar faces (from the comfort of their own homes, of course) to set the ball rolling.
Be brave and be creative, just record yourself on your mobile phone, computer or tablet and contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to upload your videos. GOOD LUCK!
We’re sure you’ll enjoy this wonderful video too. Ellie Martin is a great friend of MfE and the conductor of our Sherwood Daytime Voices. Here she is performing her own composition – Corona Loner – the perfect ‘lockdown’ song!
If you are a member of our Daytime Orchestra then Gill has posted videos to guide you through items in your repertoire.
Now it’s your turn: Take part in Rachel’s ‘Folk Song Challenge’ Record yourself on your mobile phone, computer or tablet and send clips to email@example.com and we’ll post them on our YouTube channel. We’ve had quite a few already!
Watch Angela Kay’s appearance on East Midlands Today (2 April 2020) talking about the impact COVID19 is having on MfE
Listen to John Hess, chair of Music for Everyone explaining what MfE is doing to keep you all singing and playing
There was a buzz in the air all day in anticipation of the evening’s performance. Morning and afternoon, instrumental and choral pieces were given a final polish in both the individual and combined groups.
The lunchtime recital was a real treat, given by professional guitarists Saki Kato and Hugh Milington – the Miyabi Duo. Their performance of music spanning several centuries revealed the variety of styles and sounds possible from the guitar, including the use of both body and strings as percussive elements. Like other performers at previous Summer Schools, Hugh had participated in MfE activities as a youngster, though not as a player but a singer!
As you can imagine, arranging a hall to accomodate 150+ performers in wind band, string orchestra, full orchestra and choir formation, with three conducting points, four conductors, two pianos, an organ, two sets of timpani, lots of percussion and a table for tuned wine glasses, while still leaving space for a solist and audience of family and friends, takes some time and is no mean feat, but we did it.
The performance of music reflecting this year’s theme of ‘Voyages of Discovery’ – both in space (Now you understand this blog post’s title!) and at sea – was well received. Everyone sang and played with great enthusism. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in three days of intensive rehearsal with great tutors and conductors. Of course there were a few wrong notes, but there was always the right spirit in the music and the opportunity to perform, which is what Music for Everyone is all about.
The String Orchestra enjoyed a rare opportunity for an amateur group – playing a concerto with a professional soloist. Conductor Abi Smith and leader Isobel Bounford ensured a wonderful balance between orchestra and soloist, Hugh Millington, leading to a beautiful performance of Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto.
The concert ended with a mighty fine I vow to thee my country by all performers and audience – this was within the full orchestra’s rendition of Holst’s Jupiter, which included particularly splendid horn playing.
At every great event, much goes on behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly and each participant has a great experience. MfE office staff Amy and Kirstie packed away the urns after the final break having made and served several thousand cups of coffee and tea. (Not forgetting putting out hundreds of biscuits that always disappeared within a few minutes.) They then turned their hands to playing percussion in the evening concert, alongside ‘Events’ Anne tootling her flute and Executive Director Robin compering the evening. And somehow, inbetween and after all that, they collected, set up and served the farewell buffet, then cleared EVERYTHING away until the High School was as though we had never been there.
Huge thanks go to them all, and to conductors Hilary Campbell, Gill Henshaw, Angela Kay and Abi Smith, recitalists and workshop leaders, Richard Cox – THE most amazing accompanist, Nottingham High School for being such fab hosts, and to every participant. We hope you had a great time.
Hilary encouraged the choir to ‘be more Hollywood, less British’, so it seems fitting to say ‘It’s a wrap’ for Summer School 2019! We’ll be back next year with Summer School 2020.
Rehearsals for all groups continued throughout the day. Hilary Campbell had the singers drawing the Z of Zorro with imaginery swords – one swiped line for each triplet note to ensure the perfect rhythm of three against two.
Hilary also rehearsed the string orchestra for the works accompanying the choir, with MfE’s Abi Smith taking and inspiring the group’s other rehearsals.
Today’s recital, given by Zephyr Winds – five professional players with national and international careers – was a virtuosic display of the colour and versatility of flute, clarinet, obe, horn and bassoon. The playing was by turn dramatic, tender and comical – particularly superb were the animal sounds in Jim Parker’s Les Animeaux. Director Chris Swann dazzled on clarinet in the world premier of an arrangment by Matthew Lax (MfE’s Treasurer and Trustee) of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumble Bee. Phew!
Each member of the quintet led a workshop for small groups of Summer School players – brass, oboes, bassoons, flutes, clarinets and saxophones. These groups then performed their workshopped pieces to each other. This was in addition to the players rehearsing as a windband with MfE’s Gill Henshaw, and then with the strings in the full orchestra.
The visiting professionals offer Summer School participants unique access to leading players, singers and conductors. There are opportunities to ask them for advice about individual issues or technique in general. But the days are not all work – there are refreshment breaks morning and afternoon, and today’s sunshine meant outdoor lunch for many. There is time to chat with friends, meet new people and browse the stalls, including Windblowers’ array of instruments.
You can hear the improvement all the tuition and rehearsing is bringing about. Players and singers are developing confidence in performing their own lines, listening more carefully to each other to create a blended sound, and adding in not only the dynamic and expressive effects written into the score, but the emotion that turns notes into music and a collection of individuals into a band, orchestra or choir. Tomorrow’s concert audience is in for a treat.
Today’s interesting fact: Oboes are not automatically always in tune! An oboe gives the note for the band or orchestra to tune to because its sound is clear and carries. To enure the note given is spot on, the responsible oboist must first warm their instrument and tune to a perfect A by using a tuning fork.
This morning Music for Everyone’s three-day Summer School got underway once more, but at a new venue – Nottingham High School. About 150 instrumentalists and singers arrived looking cheery, pleased to have overcome the absence of trams and the road closures. Or perhaps at the prospect of fresh coffee and pastries…
The day was filled with a rich variety of rehearsals and workshops in preparation for Wednesday’s concert performance. The repertoire for all groups has been themed to complement the 50th anniversaries of both the moon landing and Sir Robin Knox-Johnson’s circumnavigation of the globe.
More about the wind band and strings tomorrow – today’s focus is on the choir. Angela Kay, Music for Everyone’s founder and artistic director, led the singers through warm ups and into Ola Gjeilo’s Across the Vast Eternal Sky (one of her favourites, apparently). Then she had everyone swinging Fly me to the Moon before ending the morning with a first go at Handel’s Let their celestial concerts, superbly accompanied by Richard Cox.
Lunch was followed by a recital and workshop with mens’ vocal quartet Scaramella. They entertained us with snatches and glees from 18th century gentlemen’s clubs – as you might imagine, the lyrics featured much wine and were at times on the naughty side! The workshop stretched the singers physically and vocally, and everyone enjoyed exploring Pearsall’s poignant Lay a Garland.
After a cuppa, Jane McDouall, fresh from the south, returned to a warm welcome and led a singing technique session followed by a Q+A. Everyone will be breathing (inhaling, Jane prefers) with shoulders down and the right muscles in play tomorrow. ‘Basically,’ Jane said, ‘there’s no point trying to hold your tummy in and look good if you want to have breath for singing!’ The choir is looking forward to Tuesday’s arrival of visiting conductor and choral director, Hilary Campbell.
The third and final day of the Summer School saw all groups putting finishing touches to the pieces they would be playing in the evening Showcase Concert, open to friends, family and members of the public. This meant some joint rehearsals with choir and orchestra; percussion, piano and choir; orchestra and soloist etc. Brass, as requested by players attending previous Summer Schools, was also a feature of the day. Many music groups and organizations run Summer Schools but we think ours has a pretty unique offering. Not only do we ask top professionals along to give short concerts, but we also ask them to give workshops or masterclasses for appropriate delegates, today being the brass section. Any delegate can come along and listen in, and delegates often say they learn aspects of performance or about music that they can apply to their own but different instrument or voice.
Tim Thorpe (horn) and Simon Baker (trombone) have played in more professional orchestras than we have space to mention. Simon is currently playing in the West End show Kinky Boots! Each of them performed several pieces in the showcase concert, admirably and sensitively accompanied by our répétiteur for the School, Richard Cox. Simon opened with Kenny’s Fanfare and then spoke about his Nottingham roots, being a trombonist, the types of music he enjoys playing, and his friendship (and golfing rivalry) with Tim. Tim’s varied selection included a beautiful arrangement of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No 1. In both performances we were treated to the colours, ranges of sound and technical expertise of two wonderful performers.
The School’s brass section was joined by a few other players, including youngsters, for a workshop that led to a performance in the Showcase Concert. The importance of listening while playing (or singing) has been a thread running through all the workshops this year. Simon talked about the need for each player to listen out for when they had the tune, bring it out but ease the sound back when the tune passes to a different instrument. His top tip: Play confidently when sight-reading – blow through the notes – and don’t worry about the odd wrong one! He and Tim discussed the difficulties of finding a balanced the sound in a brass group given the different directions instrument bells point in – up the tuba and baritone etc, behind for the French horn, in front for trombones and trumpets.
We discovered on YouTube that Tim had performed an arrangement of Bernstein’s Somewhere from West Side Story. He very kindly supplied the orchestral parts and performed it with the orchestra in the Showcase Concert, picking up this year’s theme of Music from the Americas. And what a showcase it was of music spanning north and south America, from the 1600s right up to the present! Two of our young volunteers joined the party that was the percussion section in Sparkling Samba, conducted by Gill Henshaw. The Amercian theme opened the concert with a lively and fun performance of The Liberty Bell and closed it with the choir and orchestra thrilling the audience with a chorus from Bernstein’s Candide, conducted by MfE’s artistic director, Angela Kay MBE. There was much applause and appreciation from both audience and Trent College staff.
We were sorry to say goodbye to two tutors who have been very much part of the MfE family but are now moving on to pastures new – Victoria Barlow (choral) and Ann-Marie Shaw (strings). Thank you so much, and all the very best!
This year’s School came to a close with a social time over a hot buffet cooked by College staff. Trent College made us feel so welcome and facilitated what we hope was a great experience for all.
Instrumental players are members two groups at the Summer School – windband and full orchestra or string orchestra and full orchestra. This gives instrumentalists the chance to experience both a wider range of music and the expertise of several different tutors and guests. We were delighted to welcome young conductor Devon Bonelli today, who rehearsed Rhapsody in Blue, by his fellow American George Gershwin, with the full orchestra. Devon is studying for a music degree at the University of Nottingham, quite some way from his Arizona home!
The choir was also treated to three different tutors throughout the day, each guiding them through a range of techniques and pieces in preparation for tomorrow’s showcase concert. Late in the afternoon they went to hear the orchestra and Devon perform Rhapsody, with one of the delegates playing that famous clarinet solo opening.
After lunch violinist Owen Cox and pianist Hilary Suckling gave a much anticipated workshop. They demonstrated their rehearsal process, and Owen highlighted some of the differences for a violinist when playing with a pianist rather than with other stringed instruments in say a string quartet. The piano’s tuning is, at the moment of playing fixed and ‘tempered’, whereas string players can adjust the pitch of a note by a tiny fraction with a slight movement of a finger. This might be done to suit either the mood of a solo piece or the ensemble of a group of stringed instruments, but it can’t be employed when playing with a piano. He also discussed the challenges of slow works and long notes for a stringed instrument, saying how these are much more taxing than runs of quavers as it is difficult to sustain the right quality of sound. Each note has to be imbued with meaning, and the player has to be sure not to run out of bow length in the process! A handy tip, he said, is to ensure the bow is rosined all the way to its ends.
Hilary talked about the position the instrument player chooses to stand in relative to the pianist and how she likes to feel more connected to the player, able to make eye contact with him or her, by them standing closer to her rather than in front of the piano itself. This was Owen’s choice, too. They agreed how important it is to rehearse in a concert venue as the acoustic affects so many aspects of the sound – what worked well in one venue is unlikely to be as successful in another.
Owen talked warmly of his time in Stringwise at the opening of the early evening recital. The two of them then gave a thrilling performance of a very varied programme: Elgar’s Violin Sonata, three movements from a recent arrangement for violin and piano of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and Messiaen’s Theme and Variations. The music was imbued with so many colours and emotions in a seemingly effortless way. We listeners were captivated and transported – rapturous applause brought the day to a very satisfying close.
We’re excited to be welcoming two new professionals tomorrow – French Horn player Tim Thorpe and trombonist Simon Baker. The list of famous orchestras they have played with is VERY LONG. Come and here them in a lunchtime concert that’s open to the public – 1.30pm, Trent College Chapel.
And finally… One of our double bass players showed us a neat solution to that tricky issue of instrument spike vs slippery floor: play in your socks and stick the spike in your shoe. Sorted!
Well we can hardly believe a year has gone by since the last Summer School, but it has! This year we’ve moved from the University of Nottingham to Trent College. We wondered if those few extra miles out of Nottingham might put people off, but no! Bigger and hopefully even better than ever. A choir of 70+ and an orchestra of 80+ meeting together for three days of rehearsals, specialist workshops, Music in the Chapel concerts by visiting professionals, and the delegates’ showcase concert on Wednesday. With Trent College offering B&B, some folk have opted to stay over even though they live locally, making a mini holiday of it. Accommodation has also enabled others to come from further afield. There’s a cooked lunch for any who would like it and plenty of parking. We hear at least one person is staying not far away in a caravan. We’ll leave you to guess who…!
The guest tutors today were choral specialists Blossom Street. Tomorrow there is a violinist, and on Wednesday two brass players. Blossom Street, a chamber choir, formed 10 years ago when the singers were still students. They are now a London based and much praised choir, usually of 8, but sometimes 16 or even only four, directed by one-time singing member, Hilary Campbell. Another member is local Ellie Martin, who conducts one of our Daytime Singers groups. Five members gave a lively workshop that proved entertaining and informative. It improved the choir’s sound by helping singers give a more nuanced performance. Hilary spent a few minutes talking about the importance of diction, that it is part of the music, and just as the choir blends the pitch and timbre of its notes, it needs to do the same with pronunciation, matching vowel and consonant sounds not only within a section, e.g. tenors, but between sections when singing the same words at the same time. It’s all in the listening, just as it is with the notes themselves. Blossom Street also had delegates singing rounds. Not, however, a round of the same tune, rather five different tunes and from memory! Three other members arrived in the late afternoon to bring the first day to a close with a beautiful concert, picking up this year’s Summer School theme of music from the Americas. We went home uplifted and relaxed. Their interpretation and rendition of Holst’s I love my love and Whitacre’s Sleep were sublime.
And for the others… there were rehearsals for the full orchestra, string orchestra and windband with a variety of tutors. More about those groups in the coming days. Two more Music in the Chapel Concerts, open to the public, take place tomorrow and Wednesday. Tuesday, 5.15pm, Owen Cox, violin, and Hilary Suckling, piano perform a programme that includes Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Elgar’s Sonata. Owen is a great favourite at the Summer School. As a boy he played in MfE’s Stringwise, he now teaches at Cheetham’s School of Music and performs around the world. You don’t want to miss it. Nor Wednesday’s concert by two superb brass players at lunchtime 1.30pm. Click here for details.
This year’s Learning Disabilities Week (17-24 June, 2018) is all about health, with a big focus on the Treat Me Well Campaign. This aims to transform the way the NHS treats people with a learning disability in hospital.
There is much evidence that singing is good for EVERYONE’S health and wellbeing – physically, psychologically and socially.
Music for Everyone determined to offer a vocal programme – Open Voices – particularly suited to adults with learning disabilities. When the first group started in Sherwood, led by Cliff McArdle and Victoria Barlow, it wasn’t known how many people would come along or whether it would work, but they did and it does! Cliff and Vic engage the choir members in singing an enjoyable range of popular songs. Many singers know the words already, some read them from the projection and others hum along, tap their toes or sway to the music. The group has a mid-session break for a cuppa and chat.
With the success of the programme’s format in Sherwood, a second group opened in West Bridgford, and now there is a third in Beeston. Angela Kay’s younger daughter, Sarah Trevers, has joined the Open Voices music leaders’ team. Singers, volunteer helpers, carers and staff head home feeling that the world is a better place for music and friendship, and with spirits uplifted.
Here’s what Open Wings has noticed about their friends who come to sing at Sherwood Open Voices:
An individual who would never smile now carefully spreads her mouth wide shows her teeth and let’s out a little giggle. An individual who uses a wheelchair, has no verbal communication, but sits next to the piano taking in every single note the wonderful pianist plays, her eyes alight with joy. A unique individual that communicates only through verbal noises volunteering to sing a solo and being so clear when singing Hallelujah! An older man with Aspergers, joining in and singing Let’s go fly a kite, arms up in the air, and clapping his heart out to Lilly the Pink the pink the pink, and a Spoonful of sugar, as he remembered days gone by. A solo of Don’t you want me baby and another of Joseph! Absolutely wonderful to watch the joy on every single participants face.
Such is the power of music! This wonderful project has been made possible through our partnership with Open Wings and Reach and by generous donations from groups and individuals. We are delighted that Mapperley Open Gardens 2018 has made Open Voices one of its three charities this year. The East of England Singers will be singing at one of the participating gardens – 31 Richmond Drive, Sunday 8 July – to assist with the fund-raising.