If the ongoing issues surrounding climate change and the proposed Adani Coal mine leave you wanting to blow your top we’ve unearthed a way to help channel that frustration and anger into inspiration and joy. Let us begin. Pop a coin into your cerebral jukebox and select the tune to the chorus of the Abba song Fernando substituting the words penned by Bjorn, Agnetha and co with the following:
There’s more carbon in the air each night We’ve got to fight Adani Causing climate change for you and me It’s planet’ry Adani And we know that we must never lose The stage is set We’ll occupy your office suite Until you’re beat Adani…
Great isn’t it? Spirits depressed and deflated by overwhelming environmental concerns are momentarily lifted and buoyed with the added bonus that the familiar tune makes it an easy song to pick up and join in with in no time: empower yourself and others by engaging in a spot of choral activism and sing out against climate change. And there’s plenty more material where that came from, including for traditional folkies ‘Stop Adani Stop the mine’ to the tune of Oh my darling Clementine, guaranteed to stick firmly in ears everywhere:
Stop Adani, Stop Adani, Stop Adaaaani, Stop the mine Shouldn’t aughta poison water It’s an order – Stop the Mine
Clever and simple, these songs are addictive and accessible and are the work of two radically minded musician/activists from Queensland and NSW, Jenny Fitzgibbon and Paul Spencer, who have together created Carbon Canaries, an online song resource ‘enabling people everywhere to sing out for climate action with songs that ‘poke fun at fossils & fuelish humans, celebrate renewables of all genders and make choirs spring up at an action or staffroom near you.’
To date, Carbon Canaries have parodied and posted the tunes of 35 well-known songs re-writing the lyrics to reflect, as Paul writes, ‘the human experience of the social change movement and of living in a world that’s so beautiful, so alarming and so inspiring all at the same time.’
Jenny is motivated by the desire to offer protesters and climate campaigners a source of ‘joy and energy’ and to enable people everywhere.
The Carbon Canaries’ website provides all the tools group facilitators could wish for to get singing for positive change. Song sheets and tunes are available to download as well as backing tracks and videos of Carbon Canaries’ songs and climate inspired parodies of songs by other activists, such as the superb Specials-inspired ‘A Message to you Turnbull‘ by Melbourne’s Glorious Rabble led by Stephen Taberner and accompanied by the Horns of Justice, (below). In the spirit of solidarity, Carbon Canaries resources don’t cost the earth, in fact they are all available absolutely free, although visitors to the site are invited to support their great work by donation.
“Diversity and inclusion must be about understanding your identity and the identities of all people. Only then can we be courageous enough to steer away from like-mindedness through assimilating people’s differences (melting pot) and towards like-mindedness through honoring those differences (mosaic). To do this, initiatives designed for “cultural competency” aren’t enough. Diversity and inclusion requires diverse and non-diverse leaders to work together to create a culture that embraces diversity of thought and deploys the required best practices, development tools, and resources to maximize talent engagement, advancement, workplace performance, and overall satisfaction.” Glenn Llopis; Forbes.com
An exciting new training program focussed on Diversity and Inclusion in Singing Leadership was rolled out in Melbourne this year to kick against the concept of the cultural melting pot, replacing that sticky, outdated cauldron with shared knowledge, experience and insights that recognise and celebrate the difference we each bring to a situation as individuals in our own right, and to develop community singing leadership so that more programs supporting disadvantage and community building can be established across Victoria and beyond.
Singing for Inclusion (SINC) is the outcome of an inaugural collaboration between Community Music Victoria and Creativity Australia. The two organisations joined forces to train and refresh new and existing community Singing Leaders in how to create genuinely nurturing, safe environments for singing group participants that are inclusive and open to everyone, irrespective of their physical and mental needs or cultural background.
SINC is anti-assimilation and pro positive acknowledgement of visible and invisible difference. The program was conceived to encourage leaders to reflect and consider their perceptions and understandings of the depth and breadth of the meaning of diversity and how to be properly inclusive, a word Sarah Mandie, Diversity Coordinator for CMVic and the SINC Program Manager, believes ‘people use very freely and don’t always consider the full implications of what they are offering.’
Community Music Victoria has successfully trained and mentored hundreds of Singing Group Leaders across the state through its Victoria Sings program for over a decade. Its focus has consistently been creating a ‘free and fearless space’ in which participants feel safe to be open with themselves and each other. Through its partnership with CA, CMVic was able to share this experience and knowledge and combine it with observations and learning derived from CA’s With One Voice program.
Sarah Mandie together with Jane Coker from CMVic and Ross Maher from Creativity Australia ran a community consultation process to devise the framework and content of the SINC training program which was then run as a series of free one day workshops. Sarah Mandie explains:
“We put out a survey to people working in key areas of diversity and followed this with a consulting workshop to review the results and finalise and identify what people would want and need out of a course like this. Key people in given areas such as disability and mental health all gave similar feedback and the main thing to emerge was this: If you are going to run a course about people with different abilities, then these people need to be involved in the program somehow, which was always our intention.”
The course content was a mixture of singing leadership skills, diversity awareness, discussion with people with lived experience of mental and physical disability and sessions on how to run your group. SINC also addressed awareness of best practice in how to include all these components with the central and focal point remaining what is needed to be inclusive. As Sarah says, “are we as singing leaders really doing that or are we just talking about it…?”
Experienced singing leaders and key people involved in community arts practice around Melbourne were invited to come and present or facilitate a session, and this element of peer exchange as a substantial component of the course proved highly effective in giving people an opportunity to speak with passion, and to continue their own personal learning through listening to each other’s different viewpoints and things to be mindful of:
“Recognition of everyone’s experiences, needs and skills and bringing everyone together in a course like this actually maximises everyone’s learning… I would say for me as an experience it totally helped shape my understanding of these areas and this nature of facilitation allows everyone to contribute to something so that even in a training course about leadership, everyone, including even the facilitators, is learning. That’s the environment: the environment and the culture.”
A brilliant result of the course has been a wonderfully supportive network of leaders who are working with diverse singing groups and choirs and we hope this network will continue to grow and help each other.
“A clear message to emerge from the SINC training course is as a Singing Leader, you don’t know who’s in the room before you get there and you don’t know what’s going on in their head, and you don’t know how different they are to you or how they are feeling… AND YOU CAN NEVER ASSUME!”
“Jane Coker did an exercise to demonstrate this by getting people to share their favourite musical artist , and it was highly effective at showing how different everyone is about something you can’t see, and it was a good example of how there is always something about somebody you don’t know.”
Resources from the SINC training program will be available online in due course. Watch this space!
Life would be boring if we were all the same. Living in the most culturally diverse state in Australia, as Victorians we are encouraged to be inclusive and tolerant of everyone, and to show respect for aspects or characteristics in a person perceived to be different to our own.
Diversity and inclusion are important components of a healthy, happy and effective society where everyone feels recognised, valued for who they are and able to contribute, irrespective of their background, religion, ethnicity, language etc.
Over the coming weeks, this blog will take a closer look at the ongoing work done by Community Music Victoria to promote diversity and inclusion in our music making communities, with focus on two particular projects:
1: The SINC program (Singing for Inclusion) A series of workshops run by Community Music Victoria in partnership with Creativity Australia to train singing leaders in running inclusive singing groups.
2: Voices of Peace: a project to empower recently arrived and settled refugees from Assyrian Chaldean background to establish a Women’s Choir though which to build and strengthen connections and to reduce the pain of dislocation and loss sustained through the persecution they have endured.
As a prelude to these posts, we felt it worthwhile to re-visit what is meant when we talk about diversity, and inclusion.
According to good old google, diversity is ‘The state of being diverse or ‘a range of different things.’
Through its very essence, diversity is not restricted and defies definition.
While the most obvious and noticeable points of diversity in people such as age, race, gender, and other physical attributes are external, you can never assume anything about a person simply by looking at them. Avoid stereotyping at all cost.
Non-visual or invisible diversity covers a plethora of factors, issues and circumstances that are not seen readily and can only be ascertained if that person choses to share them with you. Again, never judge a book by its cover, and be prepared to ask people about themselves in an open, direct and empathic way.
Put simply, diversity means there is a point of difference.
Global Diversity Practice UK states: “Diversity is about empowering people. Fundamentally, diversity means respect for and appreciation of differences in age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin that are implemented by laws and policies…
…the power of diversity can only be unleashed and its benefits reaped when we recognise these differences and learn to respect and value each individual irrelevant of their background.”
Which brings us on to the other side of the coin: inclusion.
We each carry a diverse and unique set of cultural beliefs, experiences and attitudes which define us. Inclusion is the practise of allowing our individual differences to be recognised and socially accepted. It is about being welcomed into a situation and feeling fairly and equally treated for the person you are and not judged on your religion, origin, age, gender, marital status, etc.
Inclusion is vital in creating a rich and stable environment where shared learning leads to strength and cohesion and one in which people can thrive. It is about creating what Community Music Victoria refers to as ‘a free and fearless space’ in which everyone has the capacity reach their full potential because they feel genuinely included, supported and valued. It requires a commitment to the process of continued learning, and in this respect is a journey for us all with a number of positive outcomes.
“Inclusion is a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are as an individual or group; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that you can do your best… Inclusion is a shift in an organisation’s mindset and culture. The process of inclusion engages each individual and makes people feel valued which is essential to the success of the organisation. Individuals function at full capacity and feel more valued and included in the organisation’s mission. This culture shift creates higher performing organisations where motivation and morale soar.” Global Diversity Practice UK
diversity and inclusion enables us to grow our understanding and find new ways of doing things.”
In a fully inclusive society, diversity is embraced and celebrated as opposed to shunned, feared or stereotyped and the potential and opportunity for connection is greater. Through seeking to understand and educate ourselves about difference, we can move forward more cohesively and, in doing so, create a rich and varied society where commonality and difference co-exist happily, where people feel safe to share their backgrounds and culture whilst retaining the practice, beliefs, characteristics and traits which make each of us so delightfully unique.
Three ways to immediately be more inclusive:
Don’t make assumptions about an individual
Think before you speak: Understand how what you say and do impacts on others
‘If I can reduce my living expenses significantly that’s as good as making money.’ says Werribee singing leader, Steph Payne, who recently established ReciproVocal, a Barter Choir where instead of paying a termly fee to join, participants are invited to share and exchange skills and trades and even sing for their supper. (Steph dreams of dentists, desperate to sing, and who wouldn’t?)
At ReciproVocal, your money won’t get you anywhere! Steph’s vision is for the group to experience not only the bond of solidarity and support for each other common between members in community singing and music groups, but to educate themselves in ways of bartering and skills exchange that will extend out to enrich and sustain the wider community in unforeseen ways.
The idea for ReciproVocal germinated from a seed sewn at an inspirational workshop run by community facilitator, Debby Maziarz, at the Wyndam Arts Incubator, in Werribee. The workshop focussed on bartering and the establishment of mutually beneficial connections between artists and businesses, an idea that resonated heavily with Steph, inspiring a steep and positive learning curve. While she is in no doubt about the sense in trying this ‘revolutionary-retro’ approach, Steph acknowledges that she, herself, had to learn a lot of lessons in the lead up to the launch of the singing group, and that other people may also need time to come around to the concept:
“There needs to be a huge amount of education around bartering and trading. People can’t see how bartering fits into their world because they’re used to a money based currency.”
Steph has also noticed that even amongst her existing network of singers and ukulele players all keen to continue working with her, there is often the initial response of ‘but I don’t have anything to trade.’
“But they do! We are all so used to being valued monetarily and comparing ourselves based on what we have. People just don’t realise they have loads of things to trade and that you’ve got to look at it more creatively.”
To encourage new participants to dip a toe in the ReciproVocal waters, Steph is willing to accept money from her singers to begin with, gradually introducing the barter model as the group grows and develops its collective understanding of a non-monetary based currency.
“We’re all fixated by the concept of money. On the one hand it’s a leveller because everything has a monetary value, it’s very open and clear and you can see what you’re buying into. But on a whole lot of other levels it’s incredibly unfair and messed up. Money’s convenient, but it’s a real trap and it only gives things one value, when certain things hold much more.”
A significant piece of the sociological scaffolding required to support the bartering model, is trust. Trust in the validity of the concept by the participants is crucial, and belief by Steph that the services and goods offered will be forthcoming in the way they are promised is important too. A clear, shared understanding of the need for mutual boundaries between the definitions of professional and personal space between members of the group is equally important. This line in the sand is necessary for the sake of all participants because the variety of tendered tasks require varying degrees of access to areas of each other’s lives.
And while response to the idea of ReciproVocal has been hugely positive Steph believes it will be a slow burn to reach a sustainable level of interest, and is prepared for this to take time. She’s excited by an awareness that the more people she can engage and educate about bartering, the more likely it is that there really can be a functioning level of trading going on, with the possibility of a real alternative economy starting in Werribee.
To help people get their head around the type of things they can bring to the table, there’s an area on the ReciproVocal website which offers examples of what 8 weeks in a choir is worth. Steph has supplied this as a guide to allow people to work out for themselves the equivalent ‘value’ of what they might like to offer.
Again, a sliding scale of value applies because the value is not just monetary. It’s not as simple as being a term’s worth of singing valued at $150. Singers might offer a service which will save Steph time, or produce something she needs or simply just wants, or be able to arrange a lead into further work for her. The option of third party trade also exists. For example, you may not be willing to mow Steph’s lawn but you might know somebody who is for whom you can babysit, who will then mow the lawn and the chain of exchange grows longer and more embedded.
Steph is always looking to enrich and develop communities through the groups that she runs. It’s a strong part of what drives her. In the past she’s run a singing group in a pub because of the immediate social set up, and she’s hopeful that Reciprivocal will grow to enrich the community in a myriad of ways. Her hope is that once people are engaged in the trading and bartering concept, they will extend those terms and values of collaborative, sustainable living to each other, and eventually to people and life situations beyond the singing group:
“There’s a great level of satisfaction in getting your needs met in a way that’s not financial. As a person with something to offer, as a product as a service, any of us have a choice in how we exchange that. We have our needs, we have our resources, it’s about how to match those two things up. “
Whether you like it or hate it, the ways in which we absorb and process information have changed irrevocably, and putting a message out into the world is easy as pie. The challenge comes in finding your target audience before the pastry turns crusty and hard.
How long have you spent on social media today? The chances are you’ve been bombarded by information and communications of all kinds. Like magpies, our eyes are drawn to whatever stands out and glitters in the proverbial online hedgerow.
Of all the online hooks, film clips wield a mighty power to entertain, inform, amuse and to educate. Armed with smarter and smarter smart phones we each have the capacity to be the storytellers and documenters of our own life. Our pockets hold the power and the tool, all we need is the incentive and the imagination! A single clip delivered via the right platforms can be successful in attracting new audiences and engage the attention of people right across the world. As singing and instrumental group leaders and participants, a short film can be a highly effective way to share resources, increase participation, attract potential sponsors and funding and, let’s face it, it makes a way sexier tool for evaluation than a written report.
“People are watching more than they are reading, and people are watching small screens, not big ones.”
Below are some tips from Bill Pheasant* on building skills and developing technique that will help you be more mindful of the content you select to film, and how you then go about presenting and editing that content for maximum effect, whether it’s your cat climbing the curtain or your community choir in full belt. Bill has worked in communications for close to 30 years, and for the last 5 has been working globally to create tools and approaches to help almost anyone use modern technology such as a mobile phone to create short, compelling stories:
“Filmmaking for the movies is incredibly complex, but the stories at the heart of any clip are often simple. Why not consider how can we use the equipment we have, and the skills we bring, to tell meaningful stories that will help this community music work to continue.”
The following tips are taken from Bill’s notes for his workshop in Storytelling at the Community Music Victoria music camp at Grantville in April 2016.
First things first. If you’re the one in your group keen to start filming, take some time to ask yourself the following questions:
Why are you – and all the others – involved in the group?
What does it give you?
How does it make you feel?
How many people know about that?
If other people knew your stories and how you feel do you think they would get involved?
And the money question: Do you think those funding your activity would be interested in your stories? (If you got to this point, you know the answer is always yes!)
Key points to remember before you film:
People love to watch emotion.
They don’t have a long attention span.
So we need to show people the key moments. And as filmmakers – we need ways to find those moments efficiently.
Film can be a great medium for observing. A lot of clips on social media are just that: little moments of ordinary life. But to communicate well we often need more context: Why am I watching these trombones?
To get more context, use interviews with people/participants. Interviewing somebody – rather than having them talk at a camera or phone – puts them at ease, makes them feel less self-conscious and more relaxed. It also allows them to demonstrate their passion more effectively. To stay out of the picture yourself, ask the question, then listen attentively while you film the answer, without responding. If possible, pair these interview clips with some overlay images to elaborate on what is being said and hold the viewer’s attention. It means the speaking continues while the images change – even free edit software can do this.
Unless you have rock-solid arms, consider using a tripod for your phone/camera to allow you to be involved in the human connection as interviewer. It makes for better viewing and also means the person you are interviewing isn’t looking directly into the lens.
Before you begin filming, check the following:
Phone/camera memory space.
A pocketful of ideas!
A bit of technique.
A way to manage what you film.
Ways to share it.
Here are some things that will make your video better:
Light – you need enough or your film will be drab. You need to be able to adjust it. Most current smartphones have light level adjustment on the screen. It it’s still too dark, change where you film.
Cut them down to make the outcome more watchable! It may not feel like you’re shaking much while you are filming but try watching more than a few seconds of playback.
Listen for background noise and replay to test the sound is clear. Poor audio ruins many videos.
Don’t be afraid to set the scene and start filming before your subject comes into view. This creates context and draws the viewer in.
Consider the types of shots you plan to use: Wide shot. Mid shot. Close up. Why? What sort of feeling are you trying to evoke in the viewer?
Avoid panning and avoid zooming. Instead, stop filming, move closer to your subject and start again, or change your position for a different angle. If you can edit, you can sew your sequence together, later on.
Use the background as well as the foreground to tell your story.
A little forethought can mean when you sit down later to put the pieces together, you have all you need! Set the scene, as you would in any story. Take some context footage. The hall as everyone enters, for example, or a bit of the banter before the magic begins. This allows people to begin imagining what will happen next and gives them an opportunity to begin to ‘feel’ your story.
Finally, give some thought to how you are going to share your film, once it’s made. This may dictate the length and the style you go for. In giving some thought to the style, message and content of your film, try storyboarding.
If you’ve never tried this before, give storyboarding on paper a whirl. All you need is a whiteboard or some paper and pens and the time to let your imagination flow out – progressing the story scene by scene – onto the paper or whiteboard.
Storyboarding in your head
Also known as a daydream. Which can lead to some great things and unexpected ideas. Use the same principles as above and be sure to give some thought to how you’re going to store the great ideas and examples you dream up!
Give it a go! Better to get out there, try and fail than never try at all. As Bill said in his workshop, Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.
Written by Deb Carveth & Bill Pheasant. Huge thanks to Bill for providing the notes from his workshop as the basis for this post.
*Bill Pheasant is the Director of Communications for Children’s Ground in Jabiru, NT. Children’s Ground was established to work with communities experiencing disadvantage and inequity as they lead the way towards positive change. To learn more about the organisation, visit https://www.childrensground.org.au Children’s Ground also has a page on Facebook.
I recently attended the 2016 CMVic Music Camp at Grantville Lodge. I had never attended a CMVic event before and was somewhat trepidatious. I do not play a musical instrument myself, but I do sing in a choir, and I love singing, so was keen to take part in the singing workshops during the weekend in particular.
On the Sunday morning I took part in the Sharing Jewish Songs Workshop. From the minute our facilitator Sarah started talking to us about Jewish and Yiddish Music, about how (according to the strict Jewish faith) women are not really supposed to sing the songs we were about to learn, and about how we were about to make a song together consisting of only “ay di-di dies” I think we were all hooked. Sarah herself had the most beautiful singing voice, and encouraged us to “put the cry in our voice” in the way that she had been. It worked, we sounded good!
Within what seemed only a few minutes we had all engaged in a very emotional moment together, singing what sounded like a heart-breaking song that lifted all of our souls.
I know that may sound extreme, but that is how it felt at the time. We must have done something right, as Sarah herself had to wipe away a tear and told us we sounded beautiful when we had finished.
Sarah then went on to teach us two other Jewish songs, this time with lyrics, which she explained to us from a Jewish perspective, with an enjoyable sprinkling of humour thrown in. Again, the group very quickly seemed to be able to pick up the nuances and tunes of the songs, and before we knew it we were all singing in a circle, with our eyes shut, and “putting the cry in our voice” in a way we never knew we had in us. This was aided by Sarah’s youngest daughter who had joined us (who I’d had fun learning to play the marimba with the day before), adding the little harmony lines to accompany the songs. We then learned those too.
I enjoyed my whole weekend at Grantville, but this workshop was the one I didn’t want to end. I don’t think I was alone. I had a sneaky suspicion beforehand that I was going to love this workshop, but I had no idea how much.
I have just returned to England where I live and am now thinking about looking into if there is a local Jewish singing group in my area. I never saw that coming. I think Community Music Victoria’s weekend hit the mark in ways I never expected.
By Sarah Jackson
Listen to a recording of the beautiful song Adio Querida from Sarah’s session, here.
All-in ensembles: a mix of instruments, a mix of ages, a mix of skill levels with everybody welcome to squeeze up together and join in. They may be a whole heap of fun to be part of, but how does it feel to be the person standing in the middle, holding every thing together?
CMVic’s recent music camp featured a wonderful wealth of workshops for instruments and singers of diverse experience and skill levels. The all in ensemble, led by Lyndal Chambers, gave everyone the opportunity to come together and make music en glorious masse.
Imagine being the facilitator. You’re stood among a squeeze of accordions, a swathe of strings, a blast of horns, a strum of ukuleles, and a chorus of voices, all keen, all excited to be a part of this amazing thing, this swelling of sound, all packed into a room with a fairly low ceiling, and all looking at you … Where do you start things off and how do you keep it all going?
Even with a proven track record as a highly experienced music leader, facilitator and teacher, Lyndal admits the prospect of leading the 2016 CMVic ensemble made her nervous.
“I was incredibly anxious about being able to meet everybody’s needs. Usually working with a group of kids or adults, working with a group of say 25, you’re reasonably able to suss out the room and observe who needs what. You can physically run around and see who needs a simple B-flat part or the harmony in C part or whatever…you get an idea of what people need to get the most out of the experience and can sit them next to a relevant support person, but I was aware during the preparation that with so many people (100+) in the ensemble there was no way I was going to be able to do that.”
All Lyndal’s preparation payed off, and the ensemble at camp went with a swing on Saturday when everyone was full of beans and last thing on Sunday, too, when Lyndal pulled a fantastic second session out of the bag to end things on a high note.
So what were the processes and strategies used by Lyndal to prepare for the diverse needs of an all in ensemble? Here she shares some of the pointers and tips she put into play for planning things out and staying on track:
First things first, find a tune; find a song
Lyndal used ‘Caderas’ (a traditional Balafon band tune) and ‘Coffee Love’, a song by Leanne Murphy and Frank Prem in four parts which worked for the singers and across the ranges of the instrument families too.
“People played Coffee Love really well; you could hear all the quiet instruments, which was really great. And Caderas is a great tune… the accordions can play it, the horns can play it, and the strings can play it.”
Draw on your resources and be prepared to learn too
“Preparing for the ensemble, one really big piece of learning I had was about the overlap between singing groups and instrumental groups. The decision to use Coffee Love out of the new song book (Sing It) came to me like a bolt out of the blue, having sung it while recording for the book. I could apply the same process to learning Coffee Love as I would use with a singing group. Sing the part over and over and then apply that part to an instrumental group. This makes it a lot quicker for people to learn their part and it makes the transition to playing that part on an instrument easier having sung it through, so many times.”
Have section leaders in place
Having section leaders in place when leading a large group works well. “All of the weekend’s workshop leaders were sitting in the ensemble as well as all of the CMVic regulars and leaders who also understand the importance of listening and looking out for the people sitting around them. Seeing some people do this automatically in the ensemble was a great relief.”
Keep things simple
In addressing the diversity of skill level and experience in a large group, Lyndal recommends the key to success is in keeping things simple.
“Think about how simple you think it should be and then go one step simpler.”
Solos and Extensions
“Leave room for solos and extensions so the competent musicians aren’t left wondering at what point you’re going to move off three notes and are given opportunities, too.”
Provide a tune that has easy access
Coffee Love has two chords so Lyndal took her partner Strat’s ukulele and learnt those two chords from scratch. The process of doing this made her think that anyone else trying something for the first time would be able to join in with at least one chord or note of the tune. Lyndal also set the tempo and created a groove using clapping and dancing before starting on teaching the tune.
“I feel dancing is like singing. Everyone can do it and you can do it as much or as little as you like. It’s a real mixed ability thing.”
Keep the faith!
How do you stay focused and keep everything together leading a group that size and diverse?
“At no point did I feel I had to pull the whole thing back. I just felt really optimistic. You have to have faith in the group and remember that they’re going to be forgiving. If you have to stop to collect your thoughts, do it.”
Some good tips to remember are:
Have faith in the group: they will be forgiving.
If you have to think on your feet, that’s okay!
Be mindful of the fact that everyone in the room is barracking for you and again, it will be okay!
You will get to where you want to go and the group will cooperate and help you to get there.
Once everyone’s cracked the tune, extend the musical experience.
In the lead up to the weekend, Lyndal spent time considering the elements of music: tempo, rhythm, dynamics, pitch and timbre and how these could be explored in the context of the workshop, including:
Being able to do a solo
Being able to improvise
Playing slowly at times
“This was particularly helpful in the second session on Sunday because by then everyone knew the tunes and I was wondering how we could vary things and make it more musical.”
I threw it over to the group to answer these questions but at the back of my mind, I had those elements to fall back on to make it more interesting, more satisfying and to extend people’s musical experience.
Leading a large group of varied skill and experience levels makes you draw on your resources as a leader, whatever those are. In the preparation stages Lyndal drew on her expertise and experience in terms of how complicated to make the music and considering what the instruments were capable of doing. In the actual leading of the session she was thinking about ways to make things more satisfying and more musical, but as she says, there are different approaches to take and outcomes and direction will vary between leaders:
“I don’t think necessarily that you have to have the full palette of musical elements. My palette is just my palette, other people will have a full palette that’s a different palette.”
And so I think it’s about tapping into the people you’re working with. They bring skills and they bring cooperation.
Listen to the whole sound and listen to the needs of people who will let you know if things aren’t clear to them! For example, if the ukuleles can’t hear themselves or if somebody is confused by a chord, they’ll generally ask you.”
How does it sound? Take a listen here! And, above all, remember to enjoy the experience.
Article written by Deb Carveth with Lyndal Chambers
Sound recording by Stuart Ashburner at the CMVic Music Camp 2016, reproduced here with permission from Leanne Murphy and Frank Prem
The last rays of a Tuesday evening sun can often be glimpsed glinting off the brass horns, drums and other instruments of the Sunshine Street Band by the runners and dog walkers soaking up day’s end on Albion’s oval.
Every second week, the band throw open the doors of Albion Community House to allow strains of ska, jazz, whatever they’re currently playing to escape into the evening air and across this little patch of Melbourne’s West.
Peter Hinton, band founder and self professed freewheeling trombone player, sees the Sunshine Band as a ‘perfect gateway into playing in a group where different instruments are represented.’ Players of any acoustic instrument are welcome, with age and a lack of experience no barriers to joining. Some people follow dots, others play by ear.
As one of the inaugural bands in the StreetSounds project run by Community Music Victoria, the Sunshine Street Band is a real collective and has evolved to run as a collaborative model after a large dose of input, encouragement and mentoring in the early stages, from Lyndal Chambers, guest tutor Robert Jackson, Brian Strating and Katie Rose Fowler, who still plays with the band.
Peter considers the band an effective way to combat social isolation and improve connectedness between like minded people living in and around Sunshine: ‘It’s a very healthy thing to have a connection with your community..’
Hinton was the catalyst in getting the band started because he was keen to find somewhere for himself and his family – specifically his teenage daughter, to play music together with others and because there was ‘genuinely nothing else like that around where you could play music for the joy of it, where auditions and an expected level of experience didn’t apply..’
With some musical experience playing guitar with friends who then moved across town, Peter was keen for himself and his daughter to have the freedom to try new instruments and keep music going as an ‘outside of school type of thing’. After a spot of googling, and deciding that a local community band open to beginners would be the most rewarding thing to be part of, Peter discovered Community Music Victoria and picked up the phone.
His timing was perfect. Funding for StreetSounds had just been granted by the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust and the RE Ross Trust, and Lyndal Chambers was in place as project manager. Peter’s passion and palpable conviction of the need for a community band in Sunshine were the perfect sparks to ignite the project, and the Sunshine Street band, and the project, were launched.
‘Without Lyndal, this wouldn’t have started… she had all the contacts… Together with Strat she helped set the culture in the first couple of sessions .. they made it clear that you don’t have to be professional to be in a band, there were no wrong notes! It was all motivation and encouragement. And she found us the room too. (thanks to Brimbank Council).’
The band is evolving into a real collective in the way they choose what to play and the way they play it. ‘Katie knows which instruments play in which key which has really helped cos you need somebody like that… and we’ve found there are heaps of good reasons for all sharing the leader role, everyone has a say and when they have a say they feel more involved and connected. It also feels more sustainable and means that all the pressure isn’t just on one person.’
As the numbers increase, Peter says people are being drawn to the community vibe of the band. ‘There are some strong players coming in now from Sunshine West way, and you can tell from the way they play they like their music.’
As a band open to players of all abilities and musical tastes, Peter believes the key to participants getting the most enjoyment out of belonging to the Sunshine Street Band is to be open to trying different styles of music, be supportive of each other and ‘don’t expect too much, too fast… you have to make the commitment.’
From a personal perspective, Peter says that ‘being in the band and playing a brass instrument has opened up a new world for me… I’ve never done something like this before… It’s loosened up some inhibitions in me, you can feel constrained trying to play by the book and I was feeling musically detached, playing a bit of guitar but not socially, so being in the band is really important.’
The door to the Albion Community Centre is open for the duration of the band’s rehearsals every second Tuesday, and newcomers from absolute beginners to experienced players are always welcome: Drop in and try it out!
The Sunshine Street Band: Meets fortnightly at Albion Community House, 61a Selwyn St, Albion, VIC 3020 For dates and further information, go to www.cmvic.org.au
Article by Deb Carveth with Peter Hinton; feature photograph courtesy of Angela Casella
Prahran Accordion Band’s home is the German Club Tivoli on Dandenong Road. It’s not a building to evoke architectural wonder as you pass, but inside on the first and third Thursdays of the month, magic happens.
From around 6.45pm, members of the Prahran Accordion Band (PAB) can be spotted lugging cases out of cars, setting up music stands and testing their bellows in eager anticipation of another fortnightly session, led by Phil Carroll.
PAB is not huge in numbers which means a real sense of connection is being nurtured and as word gets out, the ranks are growing steadily. There’s now an average of ten players on any given week from across a wide area of Melbourne, battling evening traffic and catching trains in their dedication to squeeze in the time and to get to grips with their accordions.
We are a mixed bunch. Our lineage extends out of that big rehearsal room into the streets of Windsor and from there, all over the globe. To Poland, South America, Germany, Italy and the UK. Our ability varies a lot too; some people, like Hans Gruneberg, are absolute beginners while others have been playing since childhood.
Hans moved from Germany to Australia at the age of 22. Raised in West Berlin, he made the passage by sea away from his family and his home. On arrival at Port Melbourne he was put into quarantine where he was forced to shower seven times a day and have all his belongings sprayed with disinfectant. Undeterred, he has made Australia his home for the past 43 years. Speaking English as his second language, Hans found work as a butcher, married an Australian woman and raised a family of his own.
Hans speaks nostalgically of hearing the accordion played in his German family home especially at Christmas time and about how, as a child, it was a dream of his own to learn to play.
At the age of 65, thanks to the launch of the PAB as part of CMVic’s StreetSounds project, Hans was finally able to tick this wish off his bucket list. Having never played an instrument before, Hans was encouraged to join by Paul Smyth, founding member of the band, and Judy Gunson who occasionally leads the group.
Hans describes being able to play the accordion as a ‘dream come true’.
“It’s a great feeling to make music… it’s a great group, a friendly group. I enjoy taking part and it gets me out… it’s very supportive… and now I can play tunes by myself.”
The first thirty minutes of each session, is all about going slow for the beginners and that’s the time to ask questions and focus on tunes covering a range of no more than five notes in the right hand, and two chords or less, with the left.
Even then, it can feel surprisingly hard to correlate the two, and evokes the same looks of confusion and concentration as you see on the face of a child trying to simultaneously pat their head and rub their tum. But with just ten minutes practice every day or so, it’s amazing how quickly skills can noticeably improve.
The more extended part of the PAB repertoire includes classics such as La Paloma, and Roll out the Barrel. If you can’t play a piece with both hands, stick with one, join in when and where you can. In this way, we’re making great progress, and learning major and minor scales in the right hand, too.
The sound of a tune divided into alto and soprano parts can be amazing, the harmonies blending; the bits where we stumble and fall flat half way into a tune and have to go over a particular bar several times or start all over again, serve to deepen our connection and commitment to our practice because nobody minds and we all have a laugh.
The chat around the table during our break is also evolving to include more personal issues as people open up to share stories of their backgrounds and their daily lives.
Hans, for example, has overcome an ongoing battle with joint pain and a recent knee replacement makes him the most bionic member of the PAB. He is also a keen documenter of the club’s progress, taking photos of the group in action at Christmas and in concert last year at the Chris Gahan centre, which he then prints out and shares around. Old school, and precious. Hans is also a regular at the club’s shooting range and is a bit of a champion shot. As Phil says, Accordion Players, beware!
The Prahran Accordion Band meets every fortnight for two hours from 7-9pm. An annual subscription of $40 is paid by each player to Club Tivoli for the rehearsal space, which, as Phil points out, is probably cheaper than a one to one accordion lesson, so we’re onto a pretty great thing and there’s a weekly cost of $10. So if you or anyone else you know is using their cased accordion as a coffee table , get them to come down and see what it’s all about.
Over the next ten months or so, Men’s Sheds across Victoria will reverberate with the sounds of sawing, chiselling, hammering, probably some whistling, possibly some cussing and – ultimately – with the rich warm sounds of a brand new marimba, built in-house. Well, shed…as part of Community Music Victoria’s 4m project, in conjunction with the Victorian Men’s Shed Association.
The 4m project ( short for making music, making marimbas) is facilitated by South Gippsland based musicians and educators, Dave Paxton and Ian Chambers. Dave and Ian are working to establish five new music groups in five different areas of Victoria with local men who will collaborate on the building and playing of marimbas. Those marimbas will then be available to the wider communities in which they’ve been built and connections will be encouraged between the marimba building group and local schools, neighbourhood learning centres, and community groups.
The marimbas can be shared and made available for festivals, gatherings, wherever they can be played and enjoyed, while the building skills, knowledge and know-how can be passed on and perpetuated as a lasting legacy of the project.
In true CMVic style, it is hoped the construction process will be catalytic in uniting and engaging people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds in all of the stages from construction to completion, and beyond, and both Ian and Dave are keen to share the passion they feel for the instrument with new audiences who may not yet have explored their ability or desire to make music.
Ian has been using marimbas as a teaching tool for the past ten years and finds that everyone just gravitates to them. “Other instruments can be quite daunting to some people and marimbas offer a chance for them to participate in music making at their own level.” Dave agrees that the physicality of marimbas is intoxicating and “just grabs you, particularly the resonance and the accessibility.”
The 4m project is certainly in safe hands. Ian was born into a musical family where everyone played. For the past twenty years he has taught music in and around Gippsland with a stint in the Northern Territory for three years and plays in a band with his wife.
Dave worked as an itinerant gigging muso throughout his 20s, becoming a wooden boat builder in his 30s and now mashes up the two strands through community music making. Dave had a musical epiphany through his involvement with a singing group led by Jane Coker. Whilst he’d been playing music in the community for years it hadn’t been music making simply for the joy of it in such an egalitarian way and without an agenda.
One aspect of the 4m project which might be challenging is how to get a group of older men together to build and play an instrument if they have no background or experience of music making?
Easy, says Dave: “The technicality and tinkering aspect of marimba construction will hook in the older guys at the men’s shed and once they’ve built them they’ll have to play them and once they do that they’ll be hooked.” Ian and Dave will be on hand to guide them through the process of learning a tune or two, and, as Ian says “it’s about the material you offer especially if you accompany other instruments. There are great easy bass lines that older blokes would recognize straight away.”
While this will be a real buzz, for Dave and Ian it’s just one of the many potential, positive outcomes of the 4m project.
“Men who attend their local men’s shed are seeking company, they are keen to reach out and find a community and resonance, they are already looking to engage with others. One of the best aspects of the 4m project has to be the opportunity for people to connect from different generations who probably wouldn’t have done so otherwise and the chance to develop networks of marimba players and to meet new people with an interest in marimbas.”
In talking to Ian and Dave as background for this article, the final question asked was ‘If you were stranded on a desert island where wood was to be found in abundance, which would you build first, a marimba or a boat?’ Independently of each other, they both answered a marimba boat; what a team! A perfect working partnership, it would appear. Dave did go on to explain that boat building is hard work, that it’s a very long, intense and protracted process and that actually, he’d probably build a marimba first so that he could play it to relax after a day’s work, sweating over the boat.
Massive thanks to Ian Chambers and Dave Paxton for being so generous with their time in providing this background to the men behind the men’s shed project. And also to Australian Unity, for awarding CMVic the grant that has made the whole 4m project possible. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications Coordinator, Community Music Victoria