Circle of Songs

Busman’s holiday: I attended a workshop with Bobby McFerrin and Voicestra recently.  I’m pretty good at improvising and was excited about working with my teacher Rhiannon and finally meeting Bobby and the others.

Well, I can still sing pretty good, but I have a lot to learn.  And I learned a lot about how people work together to create from scratch and how beginners must feel when they come to one of my voice classes.  I can’t do all the cool rhythms right off the bat; I have trouble keeping my part going when others are doing something  completely different–just as the beginning choir member has trouble singing a round.  Yes, just like that.  I was so blown away by some of the counter rhythms of the other groups (circle singing is an act of making improvised parts and putting them together on the spot, sometimes someone will solo over them, but it has a lot to do with how things fit to make an interesting whole) that I had to stop and listen.  That’s good, if others are carrying on.   We would lose our beat, we would get bored just “holding an alto part.”  Just like life.  Doing the laundry, holding an alto part.

I met some really talented folks there, not all singers at all–a tap dance teacher, a film composer, drummers and activists.  And we all listened and learned and had a great time, playing.  Like summer camp for adults, with vegetarian food.

Now, school starts up, I get to try out the circle singing with my students (if they don’t know they’re improvising they loosen up more quickly) and go be a cantor for the High Holidays.  Oh yes, and sing the opera about the bunny hoarder again.

Pretty good life, pretty great, actually.

1 Comment

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  1. Oh wow,Lizzie. Improvisation. Maybe even jazz. McFerrin is a gift and so are you. I’m so happy about your experience. Hope to hear more. Much love to you. C-L All the best to you.


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