Monday, 20 June 2011

Eclectic Voices concert (Part One), Union Chapel, London

In an earlier post, I speculated on the reasons why adults take part in amateur music making, which was sparked off by a visit to Madrid by the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra led by their Musical Director Jill Hyde
The moving and obviously sincere words by a representative of Eclectic Voices at the end of their 20th anniversary celebratory concert on June 18 made me realize I need to add one more reason: the drawing power of an inspirational leader. Eclectic Voices is a prime example of a collection of individuals who devote a large part of their time and energy to learn sometimes complex and difficult music, and support the group by turning up to perform when and where they are required. Furthermore, they do not do this for individual attention, as one of the outstanding features of this choir is the excellent balance in ensemble singing, only possible because each of the singers lends their voice to blend in with the whole sound.
I met Scott Stroman when I signed up to the Jazz & Rock Summer School at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London in July 2007  

I really enjoyed playing in his large format big band improvisation sessions: he has a very creative methodology and a hugely fertile mind full of original musical ideas. 
I remember on the summer course there was a group of teenage Spanish students from a music school in Galicia. In the first big band session, Scott set the main melody, a long phrase, by singing it, using scat sounds such as do dah do dn do be do dn da, which we all picked up and played. The next session was 2 days later, and Scott sang the theme he had created to remind us all. One of the Spanish students very politely said, “I think the fifth note from the end was different the other day, I think it should be like this”… and she sang the entire long phrase in perfect intonation using tonic sol fa note names. Everyone from the anglosaxon tradition where, sadly we have lost the custom of singing to tonic sol fa, was impressed by her accuracy and Scott accepted her suggestion and we all played the tune as she remembered it. I think this is an example of Scott Stroman’s graciousness which I am sure has contributed to the closeness of his relationship with Eclectic Voices, and has been crucial in their joint success.
Starting a choir of these characteristics is an act of faith worthy of note. Maintaining a choir like this over 20 years and reaching the standards of excellence which we heard at the Union Chapel is an admirable achievement. Scott Stroman was right to acknowledge the contribution of the organizing committee and of certain key workers, but there is no doubt of the importance of his musical contribution as composer and arranger, and of his drawing power as an inspirational leader.        
Read more in Part Two … 

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