Taking the lead: Working with & directing ensembles

Today I went along to the first of two MusicLeader London training sessions “Taking the lead – working with and directing ensembles”. It was lead by internationally renown community musician Phil Mullen. I had a really good time meeting new people and learning how to better focus my delivery skills in this area.

Phil’s delivery style is every now and again like being taken on a fun, magical mystery tour – a structured whirlwind where you are thrown around his stream of consciousness, picking up loads of food for thought and useful ‘good practice’ models.

We started with ensemble theory/philosophy via an organic approach; we discussed and reported back one of our most memorable bands, what it was that made them so appealing. Drawing from our feedback we were left to discuss 4 main themes that emerged, glue – the special, tangible ingredient that makes a group seem to play with what seems to be total oneness. Second was passion and energy, followed by balance and then diversity of ideas.

After a morning full of theory, soul searching and much laughter we spent most of the afternoon music making – exploring pulse and time keeping through various fun activities. Clapping games, a kind of pulse tennis and I think it’s called ‘hocketing’ but I am probably wrong. Basically it’s where you dissect a song up and each individual in the group sings a word/syllable in time. Imagine singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ with your mates, individually taking it in turns to sing a note of the song, but adhering to the correct timing of the piece. Kind of like this:
A: Twin
B:-kle
C:Twin
D:kle
E:lil
F:-tle
G:Star

We also took it in turns to give instructions to the group in a foreign or nonsensical language. The aim was to work on body language and other means of expression to best communicate our set instructions. We also conducted the group relying on riffs and memory. I was able to work on giving clear hand instructions.

I had a great time – but am seriously shattered!! Time to end here and pass out. More next week!

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