What is it like to participate in a masterclass on distance? In this post Noora Hirn, the conductor of Värinä Chamber Choir, shares her experience. Thank you Noora for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!
In March, as covid-19 suddenly closed rehearsal spaces and isolated people to their homes, many of us were pretty clueless. What now? Many choirs put their activities on hold. I was happy for Värinäs Chamber Choirs straightforward approach to the situation - we'd maintain our activities on distance, as much as the means would allow (and they allow quite a lot!). To gather the group and sing together - even behind muted microphones, each in their homes - is incredibly empowering, comforting and even joyous. The desire to develop as a choir and as singers doesn't stop with a pandemic! We brainstormed different ideas with the choirs board, thinking of the options of working online. The idea of a masterclass with a visiting conductor came up. As a choir that is largely focused on classical music, we longed for assistance in working with rhythms and groove. Idas name came up, as we knew her to be an expert in these topics. Ida suggested a set of two meetings, with one week inbetween. That would give us some time to digest what we'd learned and do an assignment, that'd further our understanding of the topic.
In the first session Ida equipped us with an introduction of the basics of rhythmic music; groove, accents, conducting and finding the pulse within oneself (ie. rhythmic awareness). Ida encouraged us to strengthen our inner groove by exercises with the metronome, speaking the text and combining song with vocal percussion. These useful exercises will for sure be used both individually and collectively, when we get to practise together. Ida divided us into smaller groups to discuss the releases of the tones in Edenroths "Words", which was the case study of our masterclass.
Inbetween the meetings we did the listening exercise Ida has assigned us, which was insightful for the singers! We met again for a session with a bigger emphasis in activities. Besides debriefing the listening exercise in smaller groups, we also read aloud the rhythms of Worfs with approparite syllables, practised ghost notes and worked on vocal technique suitable for the genre. The exercises improved our knowledge of the piece immediately. The only thing that was lacking was immediately hearing how this impacted our sound together - as we unfortunately cannot sing together online otherwise than with muted microphones.
Even though this covid-19-era is a big challenge in many families due to child care, homeschooling, distance working, health problems, layoffs and other worries, Värinäs headcount was close to 100% during Idas session. It says something of the value of a visitors masterclass, even on distance. Moreover, it says a lot of the importance of being together and existing as a community; a choir. The singers feedback was clear: "More of this!"
Värinäs distance semester will continue with visits from a vocal teacher, music theory lessons, voice group rehearsals and planning the future. We look very much forward to the moment when we can meet again, breathe the same air and sing together, actually hearing each other and feeling the positive effects of our singing resonating in our bodies. I wish everyone strength and resiliance to endure this exceptionally tough spring semester! Noora Hirn Värinä Chamber Choirs conductor Photography by Norman Ojanen (Nooras portrait) and Maarit Kytöharju (Värinä Chamber Choir)