Trinity Laban Jazz Ensemble performed a set entitled From Swing to Bop recently. The music included classics by Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Woody Herman as well as others. Familiar names all, and it makes me wonder: why is there such a big focus on them? Continue reading
During the colder months, it is always easy to neglect our bodies’ needs and spend most of the time curling up on the sofa or huddled by a computer. It is important to keep moving to stop your muscles from becoming stiff and to frequently wash your hands to help stave off those pesky colds.
This month’s top tips: Continue reading
If you have ever read my blog or seen my posts on Twitter or Instagram, you will know that I am a huge fan of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and their Faculty of Dance at the Laban Building in Creekside, Deptford. This is where I take my daughter to contemporary kids’ classes on a Saturday. The waiting list for kids’ classes is over 2 years long, so you can tell that the teaching is highly regarded, even from the youngest of ages. This year Trinity Laban is top of the Guardian’s University league table for drama and dance for the fourth year running. Importantly for me, as a place to hang out during my daughter’s class, it is nothing but a pleasure.
Good evening after a successful first day of CoLab! Very pleased that my project “Too Many Trumpets” has got off the ground to an enthusiastic start so far, and a plan of action for the rest of the week – looking forward to what we’ll have for the performance on Friday already!
So we started off today by bringing in and collecting from around college the many different types of trumpet that exist so we could “have a play”. The whole point of the project is to try new combinations of instruments in a trumpet choir style ensemble, working out what blends well and what doesn’t, but to start with we just wanted to try out all the new shiny things! We have a good range of instruments; Bb, C, Eb/D trumpets, Bb Cornets and Flugel horns, Natural trumpets, Eb Soprano cornet, Piccolo trumpets (piston and rotary valved), Bb and C German rotary valved trumpets, bass trumpet, Cornetto (which is like a big recorder with a trumpet mouthpiece really). We enjoyed this a lot, quite geeky really.
After trying out so many trumpets and a few of our composer’s arrangements, our lips were pretty dead so made a spectrum out of the trumpets by when we thought they were invented in history, so you can see the development through time.
We particularly liked the arrangement of “Hymn to the Fallen”, but when we originally played it we used a combination of trumpets, cornets, flugel and bass trumpet which for the style wasn’t right. So we tried it again with cornets, flugel and bass trumpet and the blend was a lot better but could be further improved by using all flugels and bass.
Over lunch we dicussed our plan for the performance and how we intend to conclude our discoveries. We have a plan for the week, which has already been altered but a slight structure is in place! In the afternoon, we started talking about ideas for the composition specifically for our group and Sandy (the composer) wrote down our ideas, which we will all get to work on tomorrow morning. Mind maps are wonderful things so I wrote down things during our discussion with mentor Andrew Dunn, and also about what we had already discovered through the day.
So far, a great productive start and it’s fantastic that everyone’s so keen to learn more about and experiment with the trumpets and their uses!
So in eager anticipation of Malcolm Earl-Smith’s project, Nothing But The Blues, I am going to share 4 reasons why I love the blues and how it has informed so much of my music making over the last 40 years
Lightnin’ Hopkins – Rocky Mountain Blues
My Granny came back from holiday in Spain with a classical guitar, I picked out E from a chord book and then I put on my Dad’s recording of Rocky Mountain by Lightnin’ Hopkins and got to work out what he was doing. This was my first encounter with the blues and was a giant step from the only other thing that I played on guitar to that point: Froggie Went a Courting in D.
Listening to Lightnin’s voice singing about, “Rocky Mountain, J.C. that’s the place I want to be” reminded me of that pre teenage desolation that I used to feel staring out of a suburban bedroom in Beckenham, South east London. The gentle but insistent groove providing a bed for Sonny Terry’s harp playing which nothing short of musical perfection, placing hollers and soulful responses to the mournful words sung as clear as a bell.
The song builds beautifully and Lightnin’ turns up the gas subtly as we are challenged to “Stop by Arizona Town” He then sings about how it was impossible for Indians to get a drink, thereby highlighting prejudice against non-blacks in America.
Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lighnin’
The Mick Jagger effect is the term I use to describe for happens at a party when somebody everyone idolises walks in the door. The music gets turned up to 11 and everyone starts dancing around like they are also the wildest party animals you can imagine and they groove like this all the time. I have had the honour of witnessing this on three occasions with the great man himself.
Jagger however, is the most consistent lover of the blues that I have ever encountered. Once, I was playing at a private party with my trio at his Chateau on the Loire that had been built for Marie Antoinette, he came over and asked me firstly, do I like the fireworks? Yes they were great, especially as they flashed over the new lake that he’d just had put in and the second question, “what do I think of this record?” it was a rare edition of the London Sessions, well what can you say? His knowledge of the blues runs both wide and deep.
Bessie Smith – Backwater Blues
As a teenager brought up by a single parent father, I used to spend hours playing the guitar and looking out of the bedroom window dreaming of escape and a different life. Bessie Smith says it all here in the classic Backwater Blues. “It rained five days and the sky turned black as night”.
Bessie Smith is the Queen of the Blues.
Rev Gary Davis – Death Don’t have no Mercy
I learnt to play some of his guitar instrumentals as a teenager. He had a raw approach to fingerpicking ragtime guitar that I suited my homespun style.
“Death comes into the room and he don’t stay long” He knew what loss was all about being the only one of eight brothers and sisters to make it to adulthood. He later became a preacher and some of his sermons are really worth listening to.
The Colab Blues project will be performing on the night of the final CoLab Party. 20 Feb 19.00h at Blackheath Halls.
Being the graduate intern in Learning and Participation (Dance) I have the fantastic opportunity of being able to take part in the specialist training days offered as part of the Learning and Participation (Dance) Continuing Professional Development Programme. These days are open to those wishing to improve their teaching practice and find new ways of delivering dance classes.
I often find myself leaving the Laban Building full of ideas, ready to reflect on my own teaching practice. It is also great to experience new teaching resources that inspire me to create new and exciting lesson plans and schemes of work. It is a privilege to be taught by highly experienced dance practitioners, who can enrich your learning with their great level of expertise.
When attending these days I am able to meet a range of teachers from different contexts, including current school teachers (dance, performing arts and PE), freelancers working in schools, PGCE students and those taking their first steps into teaching dance.
The dance practitioners who lead the days are always enthused to help you discover more ways to teach and solve trickier problems to questions that may be left unanswered. I hope that I will continue to be inspired during the upcoming weekends by fresh approaches and imaginative possibilities for my own classes. A previous participant who attended a specialist training day expressed how she “Learned a great deal and relished the opportunity”. She explained; “I am actually a qualified History teacher, but I attended the session because I am interested in exploring the possibility of transferring my skills and teaching my real passion, Dance.”
Reading case studies from past students who attended these days, as well as completing the Diploma in Dance Teaching and Learning (DDTAL) has given me an insight into what can be achieved in such a pivotal stage of my career. A previous student was amazed by what one qualification can do, opening many doors for her! Since completing DDTAL she has been keen to stay in contact with different teachers as it is a great way “to share practice and ideas as a learning community” and is enjoying a fruitful career teaching dance. She also went on to complete her MA in Professional Practice in Dance Technique Pedagogy at Middlesex University.
I would recommend anyone involved in dance teaching or hoping to be involved to come along to the next Specialist Training Day and see what you may discover. Here’s where you can find out more.
Graduate Intern for Learning and Participation (Dance)