I realised this weekend how powerful voice work can be. More importantly, how powerful group work with the voice can be. Jenni Roditi’s Vocal Tai-Chi workshop this weekend was a pleasure to experience. I offered some additional backing to the solo performances in the second half of the workshop – improvising on the piano – preceded by group work for the first part of the afternoon.
Jenni facilities such an intriguing atmosphere, and without any pressure on the participants. So much encouragement existed in the room not only from Jenni but from everyone, to encourage each other to explore and try things out. The internal pressure to try and be “good” at the activities slipped away fairly quickly. There was no goal, or expectation, other than to engage with a process. And all the participants did. William Westney’s ‘Unmasterclass’ came to mind during one activity, and it reminded me of how valuable expressing musical gestures through movement can be. Westney’s book ‘The Perfect Wrong Note’ was an inspiring book when I was undertaking the EPTA Piano Pedagogy course, as was the book ‘A Soprano on her head’. Coming at a desired outcome from what can appear to be an unrelated route often brings interesting results, and such methods help to detach us from any preconceived ideas about a process. Not to say Jenni’s guided processes were unclear in anyway, or disconnected. On the contrary, there was very clear path of the processes we were exploring and an evolving one at that, as she was responding to what the participants brought to the workshop.
All participants were welcome to contribute anything of their experience during day, and particularly after solo improvisations in the second half of the workshop. Such warmth and consideration was given to everyone’s solo performance with feedback that showed this was more than a musical experience for everyone. A diverse range of participant permitted really interesting discussions, and I could sense this was the beginning of a rather intriguing and enriching journey for Jenni and for those attending.