Archive for the 'Reviews and Recollections' Category

Trusting the Process

Posted by on Mar 10 2014 | Reviews and Recollections, Songtaneous

We did it! Between: A Journey Through the Middle debuted last month to two very enthusiastic audiences. Thanks to my wonderful ensemble, my family, singer friends and students who helped with EVERYTHING and everyone who saw the shows. I could NOT have done this without each and every one of you!

The “Journey” was improvisational up to the final note sung. A few days before the shows, I was working on the program when Kenna called to tell me she was hurt and might not be able to dance the shows.

Okay. Deep breaths.

The important thing was if Kenna would be okay.

Fast forward about sixteen hours and we knew for sure that Kenna won’t be able to dance (but Kenna IS okay and she was definitely with us in spirit *smile*).

For me, the huge lesson (and work) of Between was in trusting the process. In trusting my process. In trusting that I even had a process to trust in.

I had to trust my vision, my ensemble and that I was meant to share this music with “the world.” That if I allowed and accepted obstacles I could learn something through how I responded to them. (Much the way I learn about a piece I’m improvising while I’m singing it.)

Upon getting the final word from Kenna, my instincts told me to call my friend and past collaborator Regina (Laroche) and ask her to dance.

I hesitated; Regina and I had met earlier in the week to talk about the show and listen to the some of the rehearsal recordings specifically because she wasn’t going to be able to attend the shows on the weekend.

I set the idea of calling her aside, but …

My instincts told me to call my friend and past collaborator Regina and ask her to dance. *smile*

As I composed Between, I strove to trust my artistic instincts. To know what to keep and develop and what to let “travel down the road.” I worked hard to avoid making decisions simply because they were practical or expedient. Again and again, I challenged myself to do what was right for the project artistically. (Even though there’s a part of me that still grapples with being artistic and make choices from that place.)

My artistic instincts told me I wanted a dancer on the stage to help interpret and present Between.

So I called Regina and left a message on her answering machine. (Have I talked about how singing makes me brave?)

About an hour later, Regina called me back.

She was on her way home from the Cities and saw she had missed my call.

I (very) sheepishly explained that I was calling to invite her to dance in my shows on the weekend. (You know, the shows she wasn’t going to be in town for? The ones in the Twin Cities, the cities from which she was just returning home?)

Long story short (and a lot of driving for Ms. Regina), she said yes. To Friday night.

From L to R: Regina M. Laroche, Aimee K. Bryant, sg, Bruce A. Henry, Libby Turner Opanga & Nathan J. Greer

And that was … perfect.

It truly made the shows what I wanted — improvised.

It allowed the two performances to be very different from each other and that let the work expand in ways I had only imagined.

It allowed the ensemble and the audience to explore the work as a piece with a dancer and as a “purely” musical work.

It let me put my trust in my ensemble (and let them generously put their trust in me).

And, it let one more artist take part in this Journey Through the Middle.

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Seven Years of Songtaneous

Posted by on Mar 14 2013 | Reviews and Recollections, Songtaneous

In March of 2006, I held my first Songtaneous session on a Wednesday night at a church in South Mpls. To my delight (and somewhat to my surprise), about seven singers showed up and our 2 hours together flew by. We sang, we laughed, we connected and Songtaneous was born.

Since that wonderful, and highly improvisational start (I thought that sing would be a one-time thing! *grin*), I have made it my pleasure to sing with other singers at least once a month. Sometimes, a workshop takes the place of a Songtaneous sing, but at the heart it’s the same. I make time and space to sing with others. And the gifts are many.

First and most important are all the lovely people I have met. From one-time explorers to returning regulars, from choir members to conference participants, every person who sings with Songtaneous adds to the community.

You, my dear reader, are part of the community even if you’ve never been to a sing. *smile*

(As you can see, *smile*) I’ve been thinking a lot about how Songtaneous and singing have changed my life (and me!) over the past seven years. Some of the changes are obvious. For example …

Seven years ago, I worked at a woodworking magazine.

Seven years ago, I had never been to Canada. Or Tuscanny, Tenerife or Amsterdam.

Or Paris. (Ah, Par-ee)

Seven years ago, I had never written a blog. I had written newsletters, but they were for volunteer sexual assault counselors and advertisers of woodworking products. Now, I write about singing. *grin*

Seven years ago, I had never taught a workshop or led over 300 people in spontaneous singing.

Seven years ago, I had yet to meet so many of the wonderful singer friends and collaborators I sing with now.

I mean, seven years ago I was just figuring out what community singing meant.

And, I’m still figuring it out. *smile*

Something about holding a space once a month for singers to come together and share and laugh and SING is transformative. For me and (I hope) for those who attend.

I have learned so much about spontaneous singing and what it means for me to be a singer from all of you. Your voices, interest, support and participation have made Songtaneous possible.

Here is to each and every one of you and here’s to seven more years!

(P.S. If you’ve never been to Songtaneaous, you should come sing with us sometime. *smile* The next Songtaneous is Saturday, March 30.)

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Making Music in Mankato

Posted by on Oct 23 2011 | Reviews and Recollections, Songtaneous

Leading Songtaneous

Wow — what a gift! Singing with a couple hundred (just my guess looking out over the crowd) people in this weekend’s opening ceremony.

I get to bed at a remarkably decent hour Friday night and arose around 7am to finish my prep and get on the road. I was due in Mankato at 10:30 am and since I was the opening act, I wanted to be early. *grin*

When I arrive, things are in stir due to the 2nd convergence of this conference and the Mankato marathon. I find my contact Laura and meet the sound team. It turns out the ballroom has been renovated with a brand new (and better!) acoustic design and sound system and this conference is the first event in the “new” space. I receive my wireless microphone and do a quick sound check.

(Everything works fine. *smile*)

I step on the stage and see the faces of all the people who have come to this conference in search of … something.

And I relax into the knowledge that I am searching, too. And that we can search together.

(And remember, as my mom says, that they want me to do well.)

I joke about sitting in my car feeling “less-than-positive” energy about the marathon which has again intersected with my route to this conference. I offer my apologies and bless anyone willing to run 26 miles. *smile*

Then we breathe.

We start by singing to ourselves. Then we sing to our neighbors. The energy shifts: the fear dissolves and is replaced with delight. And then (my favorite part!) the community begins to form.

I ask the singers to move from the parts they are singing to a unison tone. I ask them to find this tone while they are singing. I tell them this is a model for how we can communicate; how we can be individuals and part of a group at the same time. We get pretty close to a single note (with just a few pretty harmonies) and I am moved to sing what I can only call a blessing. Beautiful.

The weekend rushes by. I present Songtaneous workshops Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. I meet lively, open and adventurous singers. People thank me for my presentation, ask me questions about the opening and offer me lunches (with cookies!). We laugh and sing and make community from circles of song. Sunday afternoon, I join a smaller, but spirited group of conference attendees to close the weekend.

Music-making in Mankato. Yum.

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