- Alistair Smith
The Open Choir Rehearsal: ‘Three’ Improvisation
A brief but heavy downpour had flooded our usual venue, Earl Haig Hall, so this week’s choir rehearsal was promptly moved to Jenni’s loft apartment in Crouch End.
Being the location of numerous Vocal Tai Chi workshops, many of us felt quite at home singing or, more broadly speaking, vocalising in Jenni’s home.
This week brought yet another challenge! In groups of three we were to spontaneously come up with fresh pieces, unprepared, unplanned and unconducted! A rotation was devised to constantly generate new ensembles as each stage of the exercise progressed.
The result was an extremely fun process. The nature of Jenni’s two choirs capitalises on the individuality of their members. The uniqueness and excitement of both groups is fuelled by these multifarious qualities and approaches to vocal expression. Meeting another’s raw spontaneity at close quarters, separated from the larger choir, was freshly stimulating and enlightening. Each trio’s output was completely different as each member’s approach and ideas were completely different. One group would produce antiphonal exchanges of personality whilst another would generate an interwoven tapestry of parts, bold and novel in their union. Watching how the roles of participants arose and shifted was fascinating. Micro-dynamic relationships sparked into existence the moment the first performer opened their mouth. There was often a leader, or another would hold a strong base, a foundation for the others to build upon. A mediator might emerge, the cohesion between two contrasting worlds. Or there was simply an anarchic free-for-all but with a keen listening that encouraged an equality of sorts. After the exercise had run its course, Jenni added these mini ensembles to the rehearsing of the larger choir. This generated a new arrangement as Jenni clustered three performers together into an ad hoc trio of the moment. Upon being directed by Jenni to begin their spontaneous sonic safari, they split off from the whole and began their foray into the unknown. The rest of the choir carried on, providing accompaniment, be it complimentary or one of juxtaposition. The micro-climate of three individuals circled and hovered above their setting, as if in a bubble of indifference whilst Jenni tweaked the background into intriguing arrangements. Her approach ranged across a spectrum between two extremes of either carrying on as usual, giving rise to an intensity of tension, or stripping back, provided space for the trio to be in its element.
This latter arrangement engendered a setting where all complexity seemed contained inside a sphere that rolled over the compliant support of the choir, the three voices given their moment to shine as a brilliant globe above a shifting sea of sound. In TOC we are constantly challenged and encouraged to find further ways of expressing ourselves vocally, and of engaging and honouring the expression of others. This week was no exception and I‘m sure that we all experienced and learned more of one another through this close encounter with each other’s sound.