Can't beatbox? Won't beatbox? Bootybootyclappety.

SARAH LUCY PENNY

At the end of October the group gathered in London to spend a day learning and devising workshop-leading techniques with NYCGB’s Deputy Artistic Director Greg Beardsell.  With no time to lose, we were plunged straight in at the deep end and were singing a three-part gospel number within the first five minutes.  Most of us are used to sight-reading music from a page rather than learning by ear, so it was great to be able to shake that idea up and really focus on our active listening, pitching and timing as we learned the various songs that Greg had brought.  As we were picking up this material with the goal of being able to teach it ourselves, I was noting some techniques Greg was using to keep the sessions fun and and engaging; keeping the pace moving, breaking down the music into chunks, allowing us to add actions – I think it’s safe to say that I have never before sung a song about a cow whilst doing jazz hands! 

We moved from musical rounds to ‘mash-ups’ – where several different songs, preferably with a variety of genres, are layered on top of one another to create a brand new wacky piece.  We were each tasked with raiding our iPod libraries to find a piece that could fit into a minor pentatonic (five-note) scale, which resulted in an excellent mix of Adele, Spandau Ballet and the Beatles.  Once a mash-up was assembled and working well, Greg added another level of having an underlying beat: namely, beatboxing.  Since the eight of us are not quite at the level of superstars like Shlomo just yet, we were taught a great little mnemonic for a beatbox rhythm to take away – 'booty-booty-clappety' - that I’m positive is going to be stuck in my head for a very long time!

Throughout the day we were able to have several Q&A sessions, as well as try out our new ideas on each other.  We discussed how to apply the material we now have to different age groups, and yet keep the goal of each session the same: supplying a sense of achievement after a challenge, using a variety of genres and techniques (both familiar and fresh), and making the sessions as fun and engaging as possible.  I feel that we each benefitted hugely from the day with Greg, and have many ideas to adopt and put into practice.

We were able to close the day with a short rehearsal of our own.  Now that Halloween has come and gone, we didn’t feel at all guilty about bringing out some Christmas repertoire that we are planning for our next concert, which we'll be sharing with secondary school students from Nottinghamshire schools at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on 4 December - do come and join us.