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Previous Posts

Take That China!
The Continuous Descent Into Madness
You've Been Cancelled
Sort Yourself Out eBayers
The Art of Not Writing
Give Me Your Voice
Not Another Virtual Choir
Demented Reality
My Way of Losing My Mind is Quite Constructive
I'm A Cilla Black Fan On Bike

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Monday, July 20

Give Me Your Voice

When I set out to construct a virtual choir with the local children, I made a few incorrect assumptions. I incorrectly estimated the extent to which young children might have a singing range, but in some ways that was the least of my mistakes.

I got a few things right. I produced an arrangement for Mr Blue Sky (and It Must Be Love) that had both harmonies and enough tune to be singable, even if singing a harmony part. I was wary of big non-melodic jumps in the parts, and tried to make each part a singable tune. I'm pretty happy with the results. I could have done more, I could have made some bits easier, but on the whole, the balance between scale and difficulty is about right.

I incorrectly assumed that notebashing videos would help, but we pulled those before they saw the light of day. I spent many hours demonstrating how to take the lines apart and sing them in bits, and only I ever saw those videos. For young people, learning by rote as a whole is perhaps easier than having it taken apart and shown to you a bit at a time, while you can't quite follow because even if you have the sheet music, you can't read along.

Who knows, maybe the notebashing would have helped some people, but less is more. People don't follow instructions at the best of times, so reducing the amount they can fail to follow is probably the right thing to do.

The biggest thing I failed to grasp, though, was how intimate a request it was, and how insecure it would make people feel when we asked them to record themselves singing and send it in. There's no hiding from the glare of the camera lens, and people have a very intimate relationship with their singing.

  • People need to be able to sing as it frees them and allows them to express themselves
  • Many are afraid of how others will judge their singing, so don't want to sing
  • They want to believe their singing is amazing
  • They fear their singing is not
It's quite a big deal. You can deny someone the confidence of their own voice by giving them the wrong sort of feedback on their musicality at a young age. It's such an important part of who we are, the ability to sing, and yet it's so fragile.

Asking the children to give me their singing voice - in fact even asking the adults to do so - was a much larger request than I figured it would be, and I quickly realised the extent to which I needed to treat what they sent me with the utmost respect. While it's easy to criticise singing we might not like or might consider technically flawed, such criticism should only be reserved for those who are presenting themselves as professionals in their craft.

For everyone else, singing is a special thing that everyone should get to do, regardless.

That's not always been my opinion.

Wednesday, July 15

Not Another Virtual Choir

Be careful what you wish for.

Around about a month ago, I wished that I could replace the missing end-of-year school show at my children's primary school with a virtual choir... so I worked out how to make that happen, asked for the right help and involvement, and here we are with not one, but two virtual choir recordings complete and a whole lot of exhaustion to boot.

I think it was worth it. I think we made something special that the people involved love and that captured a defiant spirit of a community.

I think we drove ourselves nuts making it, and put in more work than we expected to, having overcommitted to an over ambitious project.

But I like a challenge.

I learned a lot about how vulnerable singing can make people feel. Oddly, singing is something that nearly everyone loves to do. It's something you can hurt people by criticising, and it's something that makes people feel good and free... but so insecure. People are both frightened of singing up, and need to do so.

Seeing all the performances we wove together, along with the moments before where people were worriedly psyching themselves up to do it, was a hugely humbling experience. It was a privilege to be allowed access to everyone's voices, and I treated these recordings with a huge amount of respect. I had some recordings that I simply could not fix for technical reasons, and one or two acts of utter disrespect to the efforts of the project came through from participants I shall not name.

We tried to provide all the instructions, but instructions + common sense does not always add up to the right results... luckily there were a lot of ways to undo mistakes in post-production, and I tried to restore people's efforts to the level they would have been had there been more time to learn, record, and respond to the sound coming from everyone else.

In the next post, I'll offer some thoughts on how this project succeeded.

Thursday, July 2

Demented Reality

Lockdown for Covid-19 started late March 2020. We entered lockdown earlier, around 12th March... since that time I've not performed at any gigs, bar three online ones which were not quite the same as in person ones.

When I don't gig, I go a bit crazy.

Here's a brief diary of the results of insanity, as I've tried to create a new creative world for myself, outside of my normal way of doing things.

(approx) 11th April - did an online gig, decided to write a new song for it - released that song on YouTube
12th April - having decided to "get into Garageband" I bought some video editing software and created and released "Only One Song" a musical parody of La La Land

around this point, I also recorded some music with the children, which I didn't release publicly

18th April - having had the "basic necessities" idea lodged in my head, I released "Covid 19 Lockdown Shopping Song" - a musical parody of The Bare Necessities
2nd May - two weeks after my second parody song, a third emerged - my grand opus - "Lockdown" a Downtown parody

around this point I decided to buy more recording gear - a new microphone especially

26th May - released "Working from Home" a daft original song about remote working
26th May - also launched a new Funny's Funny website - a site about comedy by comedians
2nd June - "Every Day It's Getting Closer" based on me suddenly hearing how the lyric could be subverted while in the car - a music editing video, more than anything else
3rd June - after a LOT of editing, I managed to recapture the Skype/Cher experience in a daft video

3rd June - started writing a book on how to prepare for a cancelled Edinburgh Fringe...

14th June - I tried out my new microphone in a three person video shoot - the idea being to get ready to record a montage video with the children - it turned out I needed a new Mac to do that!

16th June - sent out a training video to 10 children to create "It must be love" video virtual choir
17th June - launched the book

21st June - released the "It must be love" video and then immediately suggested a much larger virtual choir video with the school - a 4 week project, still ongoing!

So, a bunch of videos, a website, a book, two virtual choir projects... a new computer, two kittens (somewhere along the way) lost a stone or so... 

When I take the video material I get for the virtual choir, I tweak it so it looks a little better than it did in the room on the day - mainly to fit it in with the project. This is what lockdown is. Reality, but not quite... more so... and yet less so.

I'm quite tired. I enjoyed the brief period in May when I just ate a lot of toast!

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