Educational workshops form a central part of the Cracked Voices project. We want to show what a fabulous and accessible medium art songs are, and what better way to do it than to support students in writing them?
On a hot Thursday morning, the Cracked Voices team descended upon Meridian School, Royston for an introductory workshop. The aim was simple: to come up with an entire song in one morning! We had a helping hand in that Graham had written a chorus-type text out, but other than that the material was to be created entirely on the day.
The session began with a quick discussion on Cracked Voices: the song cycle, what we’re doing, and how we wanted the students to be involved. Then the writers got to work on creating their own verses to include in the song – pairs of 10 syllable lines about the items they wanted to go into the memory box. In the meantime, the musicians had a brief theory blitz on art songs, text setting and analysis with Jenni before jumping into the composing!
Having decided on rough rhythms for the text, the musicians separated out to improvise ideas, before coming back together to piece the chorus together a line at a time.They then worked out some chords for each bar or phrase, and hey presto – a chorus was born! They also blitzed a quick melody line that might work with the verses.
After a quick break the writers joined the musician to share their work. They had created four stanzas of four lines each – finding the right ideas and fitting them into 10 syllable lines had proved a challenge, but one they had risen to. They had also made the decision to rejiggle the order of the choruses, meaning some last minute changes on the music side, alongside some quick improvisation on the rhythms of the verses. After rehearsing the song a few times through, making changes and edits as we went (suggested by musicians and writers alike) we recorded the final song.
Overall, a highly successful morning, giving everyone a taster as to what the main project will entail, alongside a few fundamental techniques they could use. For the workshops in the autumn, the writers will work on their own (with plenty of support from Graham!) to create their own texts. It’ll then be down to the composers to set them to music, with the results either to be performed by the Cracked Voices performers alongside the main song cycle (in April 2018), or to be performed by themselves or maybe even the school choir!
Thanks to Jenny Warburton, Nick Smith and Meridian School for letting us run the workshop – we’re looking forward to the next one in October! Thanks also to the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts for funding the workshops. Pictures used from the @MeridianPAD Twitter feed with permission.