Imagine navigating with your eyes shut around a room full of people who are singing the same song, but at different speeds; you have a guide who holds your hand, and you must follow them by listening to their voice.
This was the exercise that made the biggest impression on me at Myriad’s recent vocal workshop. It wasn’t hard to latch on to the excellent tenor voice of my guide, but it did make me really listen, and it was magical to be steered through the cloud of sound created by an informal cannon of “Are You Going to Scarborough Fair”.
Myriad is a newly-formed project choir of keen and confident amateur singers, under the professional musical direction of David Todd. We perform in a small ensemble (16-20 singers) where every voice counts. As part of preparations for our third concert, and as we get to know each other as singers, we asked Suzi Zumpe to lead a workshop focusing on tuning and blend.
Suzi is an experienced choir director, vocal coach and professional soprano and we spent just three hours with her at the workshop. She took us through a series of exercises, all of them intriguing, with laugh-out-loud moments. These included learning by ear several canons, and improvising one – a challenge, in a really positive way, for singers like me who are used to relying on (hiding behind?) a score. Suzi has a beautiful soprano voice which she used to demonstrate in the moment.
The impact on our singing was clear. After the workshop we sang some of our concert repertoire and it seemed to me our sound was more liquid, more sensitive and more together than we’ve previously achieved. The key message I took away is that singing is as much about listening as it is about production of sound.
Jean Innes (Alto)