General

BABS QuartetCon 2021

Guest quartet MidtownGuest quartet Midtown

The weekend saw the UK’s first live national barbershop contest since the start of Covid, with and event that included the British Association of Barbershop Singers’ Preliminary quartet contest to qualify their 2022 Convention, the Barbershop in Harmony Mixed Quartet Contest, and an evening show. This wasn’t the first live barbershop event event – LABBS held a number of regional gatherings the previous weekend as a halfway-house back to a national Convention – but it was the nearest to normality we’d seen this side of the pandemic.

I’ll have various musical reflections to make in due course – I went along as much as anything to get a snapshot ‘state of the nation’ impression of how everyone is getting on these days – but for today the main things I’m thinking about involve the experience of doing something normal again after all we’ve been through.

Stepping off the Treadmill…

Despite having left full-time work in academia in 2009, I still experience September as a moment for fresh starts. And this year I have come back from my summer holiday to find the surprising thought that I would like to relinquish the discipline I have maintained for nearly 13 years of publishing a blog post every four or five days.

There are a number of interrelated reasons for this, all to do with how this blog interacts with my lived experience.

It has always been the place where I process discoveries, and clarify to myself what I have learned from my various musical adventures. And I am at a moment when I suddenly find I’m not having the intensity of new experiences to generate the regular need to write. Whilst I am – thankfully! – now getting regular opportunities for in-person musicking with my own chorus, the other groups I'd normally work with as a visiting coach are mostly likewise at the point of restarting live rehearsing, so they’re neither quite yet ready for in-person coaching nor wanting to spend time with me on zoom.

Opening Up (Literally) for Coaching

Opening up for ventilationOpening up for ventilation

Now that up to 6 people can meet indoors in England, and non-professional singing groups of up to 6 can also re-start indoor rehearsing, I am once again able to welcome individuals and small ensembles for coaching. I’ll send you a copy of my formal risk assessment on booking, but here are the key safety measures I’ll have in place to protect us all:

The PandeMusic app and How You Can Help Ongoing Research into Covid and Music-Making

PandeMusicOn Thursday I attended a session for Association of British Choral Directors members on a new app called PandeMusic. They’ve not done a major launch yet because it is taking a while to get it into the Apple Store, but it is already available for Android – indeed I downloaded and had it up and running during the session, submitting my first report in less time than it took the presenters to explain it. So I don’t think it’s premature to tell everyone else about it.

The app is a collaboration between abcd and Making Music. It is the brainchild of Martin Ashley, who gave a presentation on what it does, and why, and was developed by John Willetts, who gave a demo of how to use it.

And joy be to you all...

Signing off for the Holidays

Usually my last blog post in December is full of talk about how choral folk will be looking forward to a rest after the busiest time of year for performances. Not so much this year, eh? But we all deserve a bit of a break nonetheless. There’s been an awful lot of screen time this year, and our eyes deserve a rest. So, other than Skyping with your family, maybe now’s a good time to spend less time online and think about curling up with a good book or a craft project instead.

There’s little one can say about 2020 that won’t sound obvious. It’s been strange, it’s been tough, we’ve all grown in ways we couldn’t have imagined this time last year. Some of the changes we have had to embrace we may choose to carry onwards with us into the future, others we will gladly abandon as soon as we possibly can.

Arranging Update: Opening Up for Commissions

From today I am available again for arrangement commissions! Thank you for your patience while I took time out to do some learning and experimenting. As I’ve explained to the various people who have enquired since I stopped taking new commissions back in October so I could work my way through those I’d already committed to and create some space for my own project, I didn’t keep a waiting list in the interim. Experience has told me that if you queue people up too many months in advance, by the time you get to them, their needs have changed anyway.

So, I won’t assume that you’re still looking at the songs you were talking about earlier in the year, and am starting from a blank slate. As is my usual practice, I slot people in basically in the order that the commissions are confirmed (including, if applicable, evidence of the necessary permissions), though jiggling about a bit to take into account the timescales different groups are working to.

It will be interesting to see what it’s like going back to 4-part writing after 6 months focused exclusively on 8-parters. Though of course, if you’d like to commission an 8-parter, I’m better at it now that than I was 6 months ago :-)

Welcome to the Twenties!

Happy New Year everyone, indeed Happy New Decade!

It's funny how we have a good ten year's warning that the next higher-level change in arbitrary articulation of time is going to happen, but when it comes along I never seem to feel quite ready for it. Fortunately, the time keeps ticking past whether I have myself organised or not, so maybe I can just carry on with what I was going to do anyway.

Still, January is the tradition time for new starts, and I have some fun projects lined up for the first part of the year. My chorus, the Telfordaires, will be running a Learn to Sing in Harmony course from next Wednesday - and there's still time to sign up if you know any guys in Shropshire or its environs who might like to join in the fun.

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