Tag Archives: community music

All Will Be Well – Vic Sings in the Recovery Room

By Jessica Nabb Those of you who came along to the recent Treetops Festival may have had the opportunity to meet my little ‘community music baby’ Indivara. Jess1We call him a community music baby because he’s been born into a lovely community of honorary aunties, uncles and grandparents in our local singing community here in the hills. He also participated in loads of community singing in-utero including weekly Sweet Sassafras rehearsals, the Millennium Chorus, the CMVic Singers Weekend in Mt Evelyn, Circle Singing and Vocal Jams in the Hills, and local flash-mobbing project ‘The Voice Mob’.

Throughout all of this time, one song that followed him through the entire pregnancy was ‘All Will Be Well’ a song arranged by Juliet Prager, from CMVic’s song book ‘Vic Sings’ which I learned through the Voice Mob project. I sang this song to Indi all of the time throughout the pregnancy and regularly had the opportunity to sing it in circle with other singers, even recording a version of the song to be played throughout the birth so that Indi could enter the world surrounded by familiar music and familiar voices.

In the end, Indi had to be delivered by cesarean which meant that we had to be separated for a short while after his birth. Luckily his ‘Nina’ (our word for ‘nanna’) was there to take him to the recovery room for me with strict instructions to sing to him until we could be reunited. She sang ‘All Will Be Well’.

Apparently as soon as she started singing to him he stopped crying and just stared at her. The whole room fell silent and mum got some lovely feedback later from the other patients who had benefited from hearing such a calming song during their own recovery.

Jess2Now, whenever Indi is upset we sing ‘All Will Be Well’ to him and he calms down. And those of you who were at Barb McFarlane’s Peace Songs workshop at Treetops will now understand why I got all choked up when we sang that song! Jessica Nabb is a singer and vocal leader based in the Dandenong Ranges. She is a big believer that everyone can sing and should be given the opportunity to participate in singing and music making on a regular basis. She leads local groups Sweet Sassafras and Soul Mamas, runs her own teaching business Singing With Heart, and regularly participates in group singing herself. You can find her online here! For info about this year’s CMVic SInging Camp, head here. ‘Vic Sings’ is available on the CMVic website

Drumming reaches the heart of the matter

By Stephen Heart

150529drummingI run Playworks Oz. We run a variety of interactive workshops, including Drum Circles and In-The-Moment-Music-Making sessions. We use them as a vehicle for community and corporate messages and to teach concepts of Positive Psychology through playing in this medium. I was working for Toastmasters at a large conference some time ago. I had a hundred or so participants, all Toastmasters, a wonderful group of men and women who coach and encourage each other in communication and specifically, public speaking.

My session was entitled ‘Tuning Your Instrument’ and used a story and metaphors to invite the participants to examine and recall their strengths as public speakers. As the story and the players’ drumming skills progress, they are asked to note the areas they realise they need to work on. Power point is used to help tell the story as we play, but the pictures are simple, and easily described. They’re more metaphors and illustrations of the point I’m making. During this time the players are improving – in part due to their concentration on their listening and reading the ‘audience’, making subtle adjustments etc. I’ve run this and very similar sessions, successfully. Afterwards, I am fortunate enough to receive feedback. Sometimes its a simple thank you, other times it’s more in depth.

On this occasion, a small queue had assembled and I noticed one lady in particular. She was dressed in dark clothes that seemed to match her mood. She gave an impression of aloofness and I had seen her turn away from a younger lady who had attempted to engage with her. She had also seemed quite cranky when folk were finding their seats and had tripped, a little off balance. Now she stumbled again – only a little but it caused someone to bump into her.

I was concerned that she would be upset and yet she seemed to have had a great time. In that moment, I saw other people moving away from her- she had exuded that kind of aggression earlier, I saw the opportunity to calm things, I was still ‘mic’d up’. I stepped past the people at the front and put out an arm, she stood stock still puffing and panting and I simply said ‘I’m here to help If I may?’ and placed my arm under her hand, to steady her. ‘Young man’, she said not looking at me, but through me. ‘You already have.’ Tears rolled slowly down her cheeks under her glasses and though she held a tissue in her hand, she didn’t use it. ‘I got it. Damn it I felt it.’ I started to speak, ‘Young man don’t interrupt please.’ She took her glasses off, ‘I’m blind. but I felt more connection in that last 40 minutes than I’ve felt in the last 3 years. Thank you.’

 My eyes welled up, people moved out of the way. There was another woman who had come into the room who now helped guide her. Later she would come and thank me ‘for whatever you did.’ The truth is, I didn’t. She did.

In this kind of music making, people show up with all sorts of ‘Stuff’, the connectivity you can create and feel by being a small part of something bigger and the feeling you get when your contribution is heard to make a difference is phenomenal.
Being able to see it is wonderful but being able to truly feel rhythms and music, a groups’ efforts and energy, the heart beat of the group rub alongside your own heart beat, It’s very difficult to want to remain detached from that and that is the magic.

for information about drumming workshops or groups near you, go to www.cmvic.org.au

Singing & Swinging in the Treetops

Here at CMVic, we love hearing your stories and experiences of our events and workshops! Here’s one reflection of the weekend at the Treetops 2015 Music Camp, to get the ball rolling.

Blog3What do you get if you combine 150 people, two marquees, marimba building, singing and music workshops, mulled wine, giant bubbles floating skywards and tasty food? Why, Treetops 2015, of course! We arrived home from camp in the dark on Sunday evening, happy, tired, and muddy. It was a similar feeling to the one I’d have as a student after Glastonbury festival, only this time round, there was a washing machine on hand to take the strain, we hadn’t jumped the fence to get into the weekend and we’d been encouraged and welcome to participate in all the music making going on around us.

Treetops was a success in so many ways, it’s impossible to capture it all here. It was brilliant to see so many kids and adults of all ages mingling, singing and playing together. For the most part the threatening grey clouds behaved and during the day there were so many great workshops, the weather faded well and truly into the background. Volunteer firies stepped up and kept the wood stocked and burning. The heat encouraged people to pull up a chair and strike up the jams, and when the little coffee van rolled into camp on Saturday afternoon, life couldn’t have got much better.

My teenagers took part in strings and horn workshops, something I was quietly chuffed about cos it’s increasingly uncool for them to show interest in anything I’m around or involved with these days. Younger children got stuck into marimba playing with Dani Roca and Adam Burke, and hovered around the sessions and workshops, watching the leaders and just soaking up the general vibe of musicality. For the real littlies, Katie Hull Brown was up with the kookaburras leading a Sunday singing and music session before I’d even had my morning muesli.

It’s always good to have the opportunity to try something new so I gave Indian singing a whirl in two separate sessions led by Parvyn Kaur Singh, a totally new experience for most of us in the group, and one I found very moving.

I think it was the combination of new sounds, the beauty of the tone and the singing blended with Parvyn’s harmonium, that unlocked something in me. I was still trying to pull myself together to focus on lunch, half an hour later. (My second new experience of the weekend.)

As the sun emerged from the clouds and finally set, the two marquees strung with coloured lights offered refuge from the evening chill and for those inclined to indulge, Jess and Oli’s mulled wine was available from the bar, banishing further thoughts of pesky draughts.

Saturday night’s Jam Dance Party with The Scrimshaw Four and members of The Horns of Leroy was a whole heap of fun. I didn’t deliberately set out on a one woman mission to inflict ultimate embarrassment on my kids with decidedly dodgy dance moves, though the thought did occur to me that I was toast if they clapped eyes on me at any point in the evening. Turned out I was safe as they’d been too busy having a good time to notice. Maybe it’s time to head to no lights, no lycra and be a dancer in the dark.

The all in ensemble with Aaron Silver and Matt Sheers was a rambunctious riot of fiddles and strings, horns and voices, and the song, ‘Warm heart of Africa’ by Architecture of Helsinki, became a definite ear worm and one we’ve downloaded since being home.

Sunday afternoon rolled around and the procession swept through camp. Everyone congregated with an assortment of instruments, percussion, coloured hats, streamers and flags, all spilling out into the autumnal afternoon light. IMG_0594

This musical stream of people wound its way through the trees and across and around the unsealed road of the camp, led by Declan and The Seduceaphones, with Matt bringing up the rear still wearing the white dressing gown he’d won in the raffle the night before. I bet any lyre birds around Riddells Creek have been singing ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce ever since.

Andy Rigby and Dave Paxton’s marimba builders all emerged from their shed in time to join in, proudly sporting beautiful, freshly built marching marimbas ready to go out into the world and be played. What a great thing to be able to take home from an absolutely awesome* weekend and how cool to be able to build a playable instrument from scratch! (*I read on the internet the other day that we shouldn’t use that word anymore: it’s kinda like my style of dancing all over again.)

There was a stash of fantastic sounding stuff in the program that I didn’t make it to but I got to connect with people I haven’t seen for ages, play my accordion and sing and soak up so much inspiration. Another year, inspired by the fat happy sounds of the horns, I’d love to join the buddies for beginners program and get to grips with the saxophone.

That’s enough reflection for now, but we’d really LOVE to read about what YOU made of it all. Drop us a line or too below if you came to Treetops 2015, and if you’re feeling really motivated, write something about a workshop you attended that we can use on the CMVic blog, over the coming weeks.

See y’all again next year, Treetoppers!

Article by Deb Carveth

Pollyphonics 6 min documentary – The start of a great musical journey

Give people an opportunity to feel good - Polly Christie, Pollyphonics Choir Leader

Polly has shared this video on our CMVic facebook page and we thought it was a fantastic example of how powerful music can be in connecting with others.  Runs for 6 minutes and offers a great insight into the many benefits of community music from both a leader’s and participant’s perspectives.

Here’s a little of what’s covered.

  • Deciding to become a leader
  • Where to start a group
  • Objectives
  • Fee structure
  • Going from being the conductor, facilitator, coordinator to introducing section leaders
  • Challenges

Here’s what the choir participants had to say

I got my mojo back

When I come here I know that I’ll feel so much better

It’s the start of a great musical journey

This link will take you to the video:  Pollyphonics Choir documentary Sep 2014

Documentary created by Rebecca Fitzgibbon for her music course at Northern Melbourne, Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

The Pollyphonics Choir is located in Woodend, Victoria Australia
Website: www.pollychristie.com
Facebook:  facebook.com/PollyphonicsChoir

Article by CMVic Team

How playing an instrument benefits your brain – Anita Collins

Runs for 4min & 45sec

A TedTalk: When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

Lose your troubles in the trance of making music – an interview with Pete Gavin


Pete Gavin wandered into the CMVic office (Melbourne, Australia) one Monday morning, with a few hours to spare and has been a valued member of the volunteer team since. Pete is a Ukemeister Extraordinaire from Bendigo where he leads Bendigo Uke Muster and The Uke Joint Jumpers who set a record in November 2013 for the ‘the most ukuleles playing on a poppet head’.  His earliest memory of community music making began at home, as it does for so many of us even if we’re not aware of this until we reflect back, “dancing around the lounge room” with his four older sisters and his younger brother.

Pete found his way into music making whilst he was still at school “One of my mates played guitar. That seemed cool, so I booked in to have some lessons and it stuck. It suited me.” While plenty of people take up the guitar at school, many will cast it aside as other things supersede that moment of interest and all too soon, the guitar is left to gather dust and sit forlornly in a corner. This obviously wasn’t so in Pete’s case, so how did he come to be so passionate about community music making and what is it about leading a group, which resonates so strongly with him?

“I’ve long wanted to share the amazing benefits of being able to lose your troubles in the trance of making music.
Being approached to guide the Bendigo uke group was a perfect fit. I never tire of seeing people discover that they too can make music.Ukulele: Great as a painkiller and an antidepressant. Only known side effects – joyous laughter and a sense of belonging.” Pete also speaks of seeing the light come on in people’s eyes as they grow in understanding and confidence.

We all look forward to catching up with Pete at CMVic on a Monday morning and this short interview came about as material for the CMVic blog, when we decided to ask him some random questions about himself which he was good enough to answer.
Whilst we knew that Pete is partial to good coffee, we’re now seeing him in a whole new light as his penchant for soup…. and chocolate has been revealed. (Stand by Cadbury’s!) But he’s far more likely to be found putting energy into promoting and sustaining his uke groups than cans of chocolate soup because he’s devised an effective method of facilitation and is clearly able to convey the magic of this simple instrument: “You need a number of them in order to sound good. The bigger the number, the more joyous the sound. Therefore you need friends and if you don’t have any you need to find some.”
As with so many interviews, we threw in a couple of daft toe-curling questions in an effort to be random and you know, a bit edgy, but they didn’t perturb Pete at all and he rose to the challenge admirably.  Eg: if you could choose one super power, which one would it be? He kept everything in context beautifully. His answer? “Perfect pitch or the ability to spell rythmn rythym …..you know what I mean…”
Pete’s answer to our final question provided further testimony to how community music making increases fulfillment. We asked him if he could make music with one person or band from any point in time, who would it/they be? To which he replied:
“Too hard….actually, you know what? I reckon I already do get a chance to play with the people I’d like to play with. Chief amongst the list, Pretty Miss Kitty and the rest of the Tequila Mockingbirds, James, Geoff, Steve, Del, Matisse and Mick the Filthy Gringo. Not to mention all the part time Mockers, too numerous to mention. The page isn’t long enough and besides, who knows when, where and with whom you’ll have the next amazing musical connection. The best moments are unexpected.”
We couldn’t have said it better.
Massive thanks to Pete Gavin for stepping up to the mark.
See here for more information about the Uke Joint Jumpers and Bendigo Uke Muster

Article by Deb Carveth
CMVic Online Editor

At CMVic, we’re not into beating about the bush, so if you’re wondering what a song swap is, well, it’s exactly that.

I told you we should have taken that last left for the CMVic song swap

One of the challenges faced by singing leaders is finding ways to source new material to keep things fresh and exciting not only for their groups, but for themselves. (Even Matt Preston must occasionally wonder what on earth to cook for dinner.) To overcome this, CMVic holds regular song swaps throughout the year offering singing leaders an opportunity

  • to come together and share favourite songs,
  • discuss any problems they may be facing, and
  • to try out new material in a safe supportive and friendly environment.

We can have our very own Song Swap right here! We’ve got some interesting things to share over here: Free Resources – send a song, and we’ll post here and share it with our fabulous community.

As well as extending repertoire, song swaps provide valuable time to check in and recharge with like-minded people and form the basis for new connections. In short, song swaps are soul food for anyone who loves a good sing. Visit our website for more information www.cmvic.org.au

Article by Deb Carveth
CMVic Online Editor

What do we want a Blog for, anyway?

Why blog?For ages, we eschewed social media at CMVic. We were almost afraid it would alienate us from each other; that we would sit at home screen gazing in increased isolation and forsake hooking up to make music. Because we prefer not to rush, but to relish things slowly in life (read funding shortfall, folks) the reality dawned on us only gradually that there was a whole online community thing happening under our very noses that wasn’t going away any time soon, which we’d be bonkers to let pass us by and that contrary to our initial perception, heaps of goodness, connectivity, and learning was coming from it.

Having accepted that this phenomenon had potential to be a great tool and not the cruel master we’d once feared, CMVic moved to embrace social media. Actually, ‘embrace’ might be slightly emphatic, it was more of a luke warm hug to begin with (even my grandparents beat CMVic to starting a Facebook page) but then another amazing realisation occurred: In terms of developing networks, communicating and resource sharing, the social media landscape in some ways, is an online echo of the very essence that drives us.

Hang on to your hats, world! Having gained momentum we quickly found our feet, collecting account names and logins all over the place to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter among others and now, finally, we are blogging. We’ve propelled ourselves into the blogosphere, such a great word and synonymous – to me anyway – with the sound and feel of walking in wellies through mud.

Working as we do to promote and facilitate connections through music making, we have dreams that our blog will enable us to extend the CMVic network beyond Victoria, beyond Australia to a worldwide community of music makers, leaders and activists, and help us to promote the uniqueness of what we do here in our home state, as leaders, pioneers and supporters in the field of community music.

To connect with an audience of bloggers and followers who are like-minded people, to read and share their articles and to hear of their projects, philosophies and dreams for sustaining and growing the future of music making, whether they’re from just around the corner or somewhere around the globe is a magical and empowering thing. The CMVic blog is our glass against the wall to listen in to what’s going on out there, and it’s our tin can on a piece of string for telling everyone all of the great things that we do and what we’re all about.

Deb Carveth
Online Editor Aug 2014

Strike a Chord

When I was an awkward adolescent, I’d seek solace from the world in music. Not music making; in fact I’d go to extremes not to have to do my piano practice and would spend lessons trying to keep my teacher talking so we’d run out of time. The music my soul responded to back then was by bands like The Cure: mildly maudlin but not too scary. Nice harmonics and a bit of melody thrown in amongst all the lyrics about love lost and being misunderstood by the cruel, cruel world, hey I was fifteen and thought nobody else had been. Ever.

After trying (disastrously) to dye my hair black like Robert Smith’s, I eventually moved on.

But music has underpinned each stage of my life and I’ll often find myself crying when I hear a cello, a violin or a harp, or anything played well.

What I overlooked for years was an instrument I’d had all along. My voice. Not a great voice, pretty unremarkable and yet blended with others in a group context something magical happens, and it gives me such joy to release it and feel it soar. Singing is the best feeling: it releases endorphins, connects you with other people and as instruments go, no awkward carrying case is required, plus you can whip it out at any old time and in any old place. Then there’s the zing you get from harmonising, oh boy. But I’ll save that for another time…

I haven’t been to my singing group for a while and I really miss it. I’m planning to start back, but in the meantime I’d encourage anyone reading this who’s never tried group singing to give it a whirl.

If you live in Victoria, Australia, and are looking for a singing group to join, have a look at the groups page of Community Music Victoria’s website. They’ll help you find one to go along to, and failing that they’ll offer you support and training to start one of your own!

Article by Deb Carveth
CMVic Online Editor