Three weeks ago, I went on retreat to Northern California to attend a workshop with a teacher named Rhiannon. The workshop was four days of improvised singing. As these things go, it ends up being about a lot more than just that, but singing was our vehicle. Twelve of us lived, ate, moved, and sang together. At times we made amazing music an at other times we fumbled. All of it was invigorating and growing and after, I returned to our Circle Singing gathering inspired.
I was specifically stoked about of theme of rhythm that we sought to uncover in our March 11 gathering. At my own workshop, I had been held to a high standard, digging into complex rhythmical patterns, polyrhythms and groove. All of which I love and am also... afraid of. I went into our Circle SInging gathering with the intention of holding us to a similar standard, without alienating those who may feel self conscious due to lack of training. See, rhythm is at the essence of life and the patterns of our existence. We are most successful finding the groove when we listen carefully and let it find us. Polyrhythms are not as much "odd" rhythms as they are unfamiliar to most of us who grew up in the western world. Learning to trust that they are already inside who we are is essential in finding comfort exploring them in the realm of improvised singing.
For our first our, we really dug into exercises that tested our capacity to sing, count, move, listen and boy did this group rise to the challenge. It wasn't easy what I asked our collective to do, but I was shocked at how quickly some of these complex concepts took hold. The ultimate result being the circles with vigorous rhythms created by members of the group.
In some ways, this session more than any other was a learning experience for me in terms of keeping the bar high. It is so important to offer a gathering that feels inclusive, but at the same time we must challenge ourselves, as to make new and interesting music. This group proved to me that the challenge will be accepted if it is offered.
When we gather this week, we will be digging into what it means to change ensemble size as it relates to parts. We will have the opportunity to hear more individual voices. It will be a challenge, but I feel confident it will be accepted. I can't wait.
By the way, if you're interested in Rhiannon's work... we will be hosting her the first weekend of June in Chicago. Find out more HERE.