Experimental Singer CPD Course – early 2021

I designed and delivered a 10-hour professional development programme in experimental singing. This was funded by Creative Ireland through the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Arts Office. Due to Covid 19 restrictions, it was not possible to book a venue to meet in person for this, so I devoted some time to research different methods of online delivery of professional development, sampling a range of styles from Ireland and abroad and designing what would be the best fit for my online programme.

How did people find out about it?

In August 2020, I started to mention to colleagues and in my e-newsletter that I would be running the course, and in November 2020 I created a video for the DLR social media pages spreading the news about the course also. I invited prospective attendees to register their interest for the course, to give me an idea of the times they were free and to let me know where they heard about the course. In late December I confirmed with the people that had registered an interest in the course that it would be happening on the last Tuesday in January and the first Tuesday in February, and asked them to confirm their participation. In early January, I requested the Contemporary Music Centre to feature the course which now had definite dates in their opportunities page with a deadline of 21st January to register interest. At this point I had 10 people with varying degrees of familiarity with experimental singing, but all keen to learn from me and who had confirmed their interest.

How did I run the course

At the start of the first day I asked each of them what was their purpose and why were they taking the course. This was an invitation to each of them to fully commit to the course, and to realise that they could shape their experience of it from the outset by setting out what they were open to, rather than waiting to see what would emerge before trusting in the process. It also allowed everyone to get to know everyone, as the participants were from different backgrounds and while some knew each other, it was necessary to get to know everyone.

Throughout the two days of the course, I divided the group into breakout rooms where they could discuss their experiences, I also gave time for people to reflect / journal on the work as we were going through the day. I was keen that the course would be seen as a collaborative, open environment where all of our experiences were valid.

Day 1

Topics covered included:

Journalling, Feldenkrais, Anat Baniel, Discovering our Purpose in coming, the idea that checking in with our purpose and why makes the work more relatable to ourselves, I led a Feldenkrais discovery exercise into breathing. I led some Linkater exercises into the voice. The day finished with some experimentation into sound gestures using Viewpoints Method and we finished with a group improvisation.

Day 2

Topics covered included:

Yoga bodyscan, Somatics (Sensory Motor Amnesia), I led a movement practice based on Essential Somatics work, I led a Linklater practice, and we finished the morning with a movement / sound exploration of Anne Tannam’s Airborne. Each participant made their own journey through the poem creating a movement gesture, in breakout rooms each performed for the other members of the room, and it was very pleasing to hear that this exercise had brought a truly cultural experience to the participants: one participant remarked that it was like visiting an art gallery, seeing words and gestures intertwining with her own experience of the same text that she had been travelling through. She had been expecting an educational experience, but had experienced culture.

In the afternoon, following an outline of my practice with learning difficult music we again returned to vocal / movement gestures noticing the difference in sound depending on what movement was happening in the body, or what emotion was being experienced. We finished again some Viewpoints work and following a group improvisation I shared that my purpose in running the course had been to share my passion for contemporary music, and to encourage others to explore this music in a safe and love-filled manner.

Outcome

I was so glad that there was a lovely open respectful and safe environment that we all felt we could explore these ideas and create sound together. I learnt so much from the experience and was so pleased that so many of these ideas transferred from “real life” into the virtual arena. It was down to the partcipant’s willingness to engage with the suggestions I was making that made that happen.

Feedback from participants

“Even though I only attended one day out of two, I felt that it was an enormous fountain of experiences and knowledge compacted into that time, that made it feel whole. I would have loved to have attended both days for that very reason. The course was highly informative, exploratory, positive, and encouraging. In particular I enjoyed how you pointed to the many different resources and sources of where many of the techniques we explored were from, but then implemented them into practice, and guided us through somatic, sonic, and other types of exercises that definitely pushed into experiences and realms of practice that were underexplored for me. It was a truly wonderful journey to see how gesture and sound are so intrinsically linked, and it was really fruitful for me to gain an understanding of this through the course, as it’s of interest to me both compositionally and vocally. The structure of the day was effective, both in terms of the pacing of activities and information, but also in terms of breaks, and also the kinds of ventures we explored. Overall it was a fantastic experience, a necessary endeavour, and one that should be supported further. The classes would be hugely beneficial in person, but were very effective over zoom, and it would be lovely if these were to take place again.” – Max Gibson, composer

“Thank you so much for an amazing two days with your CPD course. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The content was very informative and I found the pace of the two days had an easy flow to it with enough time to really reflect on the new ideas that were presented without it being overwhelming. The course has given me so many new tools for my music practice which will be invaluable to the further development of my artistry. Liz is a warm and encouraging facilitator and the overall atmosphere was respectful and positive which allowed us to play, create and connect despite the challenges of working online. I would highly recommend Liz and this course to anyone. Grateful to DLR and Creative Ireland for making such an important resource available for free at this time of uncertainty.” – Leanne Fitzgerald, singer

The future of this project

I was very pleased to have funding this time from Creative Ireland through Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Arts Office to offer these workshops free to participants. I am passionate about performing contemporary music and it is really important to me to be able to share my skills and ideas with others, to give back to the community and also to grow interest in the area. I am actively seeking opportunities to run this course again and would love to hear from you if you have any ideas about how I could work with you to make this happen.

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