Laugh? Yes! Cry? Yes! Learn lots? Yes, yes yes! The intensive course I chose equated with nearly 13 hours singing over two days yet time seemed to run away with us. We found “spontaneity through process” by working on the songs of Kurt Weill & Hans Eisler, set to lyrics by Bertolt Brecht. These included “The Ballad of the Mac the Knife”, “Kids today”, “Knocking Shop Tango”, “A German at Stalingrad” and “Supply and Demand”. After Graeme du Fresne introduced us to the juxtaposition between the beautiful music and somewhat shocking words, we explored ways to help us find our own interpretation. These approaches included:
Rewriting the song out again – by doing so we all became far more aware of text choices.
Speaking out the text aloud with no music, then reading with music playing, then reading it out as if you were a particular character such as a sports reporter – this gave a whole new way of hearing and looking at the text
Delivering the song as if a tour guide in a museum with the ‘crowd’ paying varying attention – this immediately made not only the story teller be more demonstrative by showing off each piece but also more realistic in grabbing people’s attention
Playing a kind of Chinese Whispers character walk – by following the leader each person tried to copy the person in front of them. By the time this was copied by the last in the line a completely different walk had been adopted, elements of which could be useful for a character
Actioned some of the texts – this immediately heightened the delivery and helped tell a story
A consideration of why the music was written in a certain way – why was there an introduction? What did it add to the story? What could you do with it whilst on stage?
A consideration of the character’s needs, wants and obstacle to overcome.
The result was that we all produced dramatically different and believable deliveries. Lesley Chester’s transformation when singing “A German at Stalingrad” will remain with me for a long time. The difference from start to finish on every song was like night and day and I have come away with new ideas for breathing life into lyrics.
Inter-mingled with all this Graeme constantly helped us to read the music accurately and gave us tips on breath control and delivery. I have never done an intensive course before and although I missed not being able to be at Summer School the whole week I must say I found that working this way highly productive, stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable. “Fantastically intensive” sums up the course well!
I was also lucky enough to join in with two of the warm-ups which everyone at LEATSS enjoys each morning at 9.00. What nicer way than to kick off your day with the Chiffons singing “Sweet-talking guy” or to run around pretending you have a superpower only to then to be coaxed gently into awareness of your surroundings and fellow participants?! Wonderful stuff!
Because my course fell on the Saturday I also had the opportunity to witness the shares for the week – all groups were asked if it was OK and I was delighted that the groups agreed as it proved to be such a treat. I hadn’t realised how funny it could be just calling out numbers 1 to 10 but Mitch’s group had us all in hysterics. Some beautifully highly detailed work was evident from Chris’ groups and the enthusiasm and happiness of Helen’s group was simply inspiring. Last but not least, one of Janice’s groups shared some completely off the wall (for me at least!) non-naturalistic approaches to performance – loved it – I had no idea what was going to happen next or why which made it fun and exciting to see.
And then there’s the bar … always wonderful to know it is waiting for you at the end of such a long yet rewarding day. The evenings at Summer School are really special, giving you the opportunity to chat to everyone and have some fun. Newcomer Tiernan Taylor’s moving delivery of “Amnesia” had me, and even John Brigg (yes, John Brigg!), with tears in our eyes (for all the right reasons!). Krista’s very special rendition of “Mac the Knife” and some of the lads from Oh singing “And when they ask us” were amongst some very special impromptu shares at the bar and was evidence again that the magic of Summer School was at work.
Fears were diminished, play encouraged and learning flourished. Chatting to participants from other courses this pattern seemed repeated. On a personal level it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of and to watch others develop too. Sincere thanks to NWTC who sponsored my participation through the Richard Chappell award and bravo to tutors and participants, job very well done indeed. I’ll be back!”