On Saturday 2nd November 2013 the Malmesbury Singers hosted a choir workshop with Fiona Evans, former singer with “The Sixteen” and much acclaimed by names such as John Rutter, Bob Chilcott, not to mention Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The Workshop was held at the United Reformed Church in Malmesbury and members from surrounding choirs also came along to take part. The idea of a workshop was originally conceived by the Malmesbury Singers committee in memory of Judith Miller, an alto with the Malmesbury Singers who sadly died from cancer two years ago and whose husband Rob kindly made a donation in her memory; she is very much missed by all who knew her.
The singers enjoyed a morning coffee before starting rehearsals at 11am. Fiona gave us a brief introduction to her life and how she came to now be managing choirs, conducting and engaging singers. She recently started a Military Wives choir in Wallop and both she and the participants are thoroughly enjoying themselves! During the workshop Fiona suggested that if the choir isn’t engaging, it is the duty of the conductor to change the way they communicate to elicit engagement, and in fact skilfully illustrated this during the day.
We did some basic relaxation exercises and learned to change our mouth shape to elicit different sounds. We breathed in for four and out for four, eight, sixteen and thirty-two. We learned to keep our mouths open at the end of a piece to allow the sound to continue travelling. We also learned to “throw” out notes like a frisbee – going upwards, along and downwards and to appreciate how our voice changed as our physical shape and actions changed. A lasting memory I have is when – to assist with choir engagement – one substitutes certain well known words from (for example) The Messiah (i.e. “Wonderful Spiderman” aka “Wonderful Counsellor”) it has an uplifting effect as the choir inwardly chuckle. What an amazing day. Click here for a recording of “Nova Nova!” from the day.