UK Choir Festival
Wayfarers Chorus were represented at the recent UK Choir Festival in Manchester, with 8 members making the early (Sunday) morning trip. It wasn’t quite a perfectly balanced octet but we did have all voice parts so were able to take part in the performances at the end of the day.
This is the first year the festival has been held in Manchester and the choice of dates meant that a number of choirs were not able to attend. However there were still in the region of 120 people there, from 4 choruses including G-Force from Formby. A couple of the choruses had taken large numbers, G-Force being one with 40+ members there out of their total membership of 90+!
For anybody who has been to the BABS Harmony College, the format of this festival was a lot more informal, with plenty of crowd participation and movement around the auditorium.
After a warm-up which many of us would at least partly recognise, there was a session on breathing techniques. One of the pointers which generated much debate was that it was better to have just enough breath than too much. The workshop leader made us practice running out of breath just as we reached the end of the phrase, making sure we used all of the breath to project the song.
The next session taught us about varying the way we sing to suit different music styles. We went through opera, gospel, Gregorian chants and a couple of others. Very enlightening, though I don’t think any of us enjoyed trying to learn a new song and a new language (Latin) at the same time.
After lunch was a session about connecting emotionally with the music. The main point made here was to place the music into a context which means something to us personally, rather than just echoing what the composer felt. The workshop leader explained about Michael Jackson recording “She’s out of my life” and being unable to complete it in most versions without ending in tears. Although they managed to get a ‘perfect’ take in the end, they chose one of the versions in which he cried, because of the impact it gave the song. Verdict – don’t be afraid to show your emotions and you will carry the audience with you.
The final official workshop session saw us strutting our stuff around the auditorium floor, ‘Adding movement to the music’. Although slightly anarchic and definitely good fun, this session was partly aimed at showing us how to engage audiences with spontaneous movements rather than rigid choreography.
The climax of the festival was the chance to perform in front of the other choruses and the workshop leaders. Needless to say, we took the opportunity and chose three of our favourites. When I’m 64 came first, followed by ‘Breaking Up’ and finally ‘Sweet Gypsy Rose’.
The audience absolutely loved our performance style, being the only one with any real movement apart from one of G-Force’s songs. They laughed in all of the right places and when we slipped in ‘One More Time’ at the end of the set even the judges were up applauding, it felt a bit like a scene from Britain’s Got Talent!
After the performance we were given feedback by the four workshop leads and it was 99% positive. Everybody loved the enthusiasm and the rapport between the chorus members. There was a cautionary note about tuning at the start of Sweet Gypsy Rose but all in all a good show.
The 8 of us who went all concluded that it may not have been as educational as Harmony College, but it was definitely fun, did teach us some things and for £29 was a very good value way of spending a day.
If you are interested in going to the next one it is being scheduled for February.