What Can We Do With A Group Of Singers Online? - part 3
Updated: Apr 10
In this post I share the plan I did for Musta lammas' session this week. I hope that it can be helpful and perhaps provide inspiration!
The idea of sharing the plan came from this webinar on online interaction. It points out how important a basic feeling of safety is for allowing a team to be productive online. A factor that contributes to this is clarity regarding the agenda and what is expected at each time. This inspired me to not only create my usual plan of action, but also to verbalize the goals I had for each activity - and to share this with my singers.
Musta lammas is a high-energy group with young adults, where a large portion of them are still students. The members take on shared responsibility and initiative well. I find that keeping the groups attention at the task at hand takes quite fast moves and frequent changes of perspectives/gears. At the same time, being kind and clear in all actions is very important. In the past weeks, our singers have seemed pretty exhausted after full days of distance studies / workdays, where many of the singers also deal with the challenge of transitioning their teaching jobs to the online space. Therefore, I tried to keep each individual phase pretty compact and tasks easy to follow.
Goal: To center the group and to tune into oneselves and each other. To strengthen our mutual contact and listening. Waking up the body and the voice.
Together: How are everyone feeling today on a scale from 1 to 5? First body, then mind. Sharing of numbers by held up fingers, no explanations needed.
Free conversation in breakout rooms with 3 participants each: how are everyone doing? 5min.
Together: let's stand up, claim the space available & dance a little. After getting going, I shout out turns on who shows a move, and everyone else copies. Music: Teri Mantere - Lose Your Love.
Brief voice warmup in two parts (SA-TB), focus on switching between different vocal qualities & gearing up in volume for each option. We attempted to do it with microphones on, but then settled on having them muted.
17.55-18.05 ENSEMBLE SESSION 1
Goal: Musical play and exploration, developing harmonic perception and connection.
In breakout rooms with 4 participants each, microphones unmuted: building up chords with one tone per singer in a pre-agreed order. Three singers do the buildup, the fourth acts as a mirror and sings/plays the tones, commenting on how she/he perceived the chord.
This was also an opportunity to level different singers microphone gains from the audio settings in Zoom.
Together: short debrief, 2min.
18.05-18.20 ENSEMBLE SESSION 2A
Goal: To refresh certain vocal painting -signs, having the participants not only passively understand but actively produce them.
In breakout rooms with microphones unmuted: recapping certain vocal painting -signs by switching leadership so that everyone gets to lead. Option to 1) play memory game with the signs, having the leader either showing the sign or saying the name, and the followers doing vice versa or 2) try doing music with the signs, considering that only one person at a time can be doing stuff with a specific tempo.
List of signs: create, freestyle, drone, air/without air, exit/enter slowly, long/short notes, volume, males/females
Together: short debrief, 2min.
18.20-18.25 ENSEMBLE SESSION 2B
Goal: To refresh certain solfege-signs, having the participants not only passively understand but actively produce them.
In breakout rooms with microphones unmuted: solfege with changing leadership so that everyone gets to lead. Remember the octaves above and below middle do, as far as voice ranges allow!
TIER 1) do - re - mi - so
TIER 2) do - re - mi - fa - so - la
TIER 3) do - re - me - mi - fa - so - la - ti - te
18.25-30 TOILET & COFFEE BREAK, options for free discussion
18.30-18.40 TECH SESSION / SOLFEGE DEMO
Goal: Figuring out what our optimal setting could be if we'd practise new material online during the following weeks (vocal technique, listening to each other to copy phrasings, whatever we can come up with that latency doesn't mess up).
Together: 2-part solfege. Those who have internet over wire connection & possibility to original sound have their microphones unmuted, the rest on mute, everyone sings & shows the signs. Hearing out how it sounds.
Together: talking about gear and possible adjustments to improve connections.
18.40-19.10 DEBRIEF OF SONGWRITING CHALLENGE "REFERENCE SONGS" FROM LAST WEEK, leadership passed on to the singer who led and supervised said challenge
Goal: To aquire new drafts of songs for the choirs arrangers.
Lyrics shared on screen, demo audios listened to together
Positive feedback rounds: what did the listeners fall for in the demos? What worked well?
19.10-19.18 INTRODUCING THE NEXT SONGWRITING CHALLENGE, "PASS IT ON"
Goal: Same as previously - to aquire new drafts of songs for the choirs arrangers.
Presenting the challenge:
Everyone who wants to participate are divided into teams that agree on which four days they will do the challenge on. A minimum of 10-20min per day should be enough, although spending more time is allowed too. The bar is encouraged to be kept low. As the days proceed, each new creator has full rights to freely mess around with the material previously and make whatever changes and/or edits that feel right.
Day 1: Everyone writes some lyrics and passes them on.
Day 2: Everyone writes a melody to the lyrics and pass it on. No harmony should be included in the format that is passed on.
Day 3: Everyone harmonizes the melody in whichever way they prefer.
Day 4: Everyone attempts to pull it together, and make a version of what has been created that could be presented to the group. Could be extending and/or editing the material, or starting the arrangement. Anything. Presentation at the next rehearsal.
Then: dividing everyone who want to participate into groups, and setting off a group chat for each one.
19.18- KUOROKALJAT ie. SOCIAL TIME, official ending time 19.30. Everyone unmuted, no agenda :)
I think we succeeded in keeping everyone involved and enjoying the session - huge victories, both of them! I went probably a bit overboard with packing many different elements into a short amount of time in the plan. However, I think the short time frames also allowed the singers to feel pretty playful and less prestigious with the exercises, knowing that there would only be a few moments to have a go on each task.
I am hugely impressed by the outcomes of our songwriting challenges. It is inspiring to see how much energy and joy it seems to give the whole group. A cornerstone in our repertoire is original material, so it's something we work on regularly also in normal times, although there rarely seems to be quite enough time for it. I really appreciate the opportunity we now have to unveil some of the mysteries surrounding songwriting. Hopefully, that can inspire also those of us who aren't writing new music regularly to try it out and get creative.
Is this something that you found useful? I am trying to figure out which would be the best way to share these "what to do" type of ideas, and would love to share my plans for my other groups aswell, if that is something that helps you out. Let me know and we'll take it from there :)