Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Therapeutic Music

Greetings readers!

There is this student group at the University called "Therapeutic Music" and what they do is provide weekly-monthly concerts at local nursing homes in the Edmonton area. They usually provide concerts for those with dementia and they accept musicians of all skill levels to contribute to the musical program.

A friend of mine ended up joining this group in September and asked me if I'd be interested in doing a few songs with him at some point. I didn't hesitate since music therapy is exactly within my area of interest and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to do a voice & acoustic guitar duet. You must understand, I never voluntarily sing solo repertoire. However, it's something I really should get better at. It is a great shame to be a musician but not be able to to share your music with others. Of course, recording music is great but the ability to perform live is a crucial skill every musician should have. The first concert in October didn't line up with my schedule but I was glad I was able to make it to the one this month. In September I did meet up with my friend to quickly run through two folk songs: "Arlington" by The Wailin' Jenny's and "Uniform Grey" by Sarah Harmer. That was the last time we saw each other until the concert.

I thought this was a good opportunity to try out solo singing in a supportive and low stress atmosphere. The last time I did any solo rep was when I had a solo line from John Rutter's "A Virgin Most Pure" from his Dancing Day Christmas set. Since I had that solo sprung upon me a few days before the actual performance, and due to the fact that it was at the Winspear Centre, anything else would seem less stressful in my eyes. I remember waiting for my entry from the harp, and I was about to come in early but, thankfully, my conductor made some serious eye contact with me and I waited until she brought me in to sing.

On the day of the Therapeutic Music performance, I was able to chat with some of the other musicians and listened to some nervous monologues about the upcoming performance. I guess I wasn't alone. There was a diverse set of instruments: some piano players, a violin player, a cello duet, a flautist, two acoustic guitar players and different combinations of some of the previously mentioned musicians. Overall, it was a concise one hour program. Due to a program swap, I ended up going first with my acoustic guitar partner-in-crime and our two songs were short and sweet. I was thankful for his supportive presence next to me on the piano bench. However, I cursed the fact that my nerves wouldn't allow me to get a good breath in for the first few phrases of "Arlington" so I had that nervous breath vibrato. Gross. But I was happy that my respiratory system settled down throughout the piece. By the time "Uniform Grey" arrived, I was in control again. Not bad, not bad at all. There is a glimmer of hope for me after all. I think the thing with choir solo's is that there is no time to settle in. By the time you're getting comfortable, your line is over, and it's time for the next song.

The whole concert was just nice and intimate. All the residents were sitting in faded pastel recliners and pudgy couches, looking slightly drowsy, and my fellow musicians were sitting on the ground against the walls. Overall, it was a positive experience for me and a good opportunity to see how my voice fares in solo"ish" settings. It's definitely weird not having to blend with another voice. I'm not used to doing things with my voice and having those little quirks be heard. Those details rarely ever emerge out of a choral fabric when only one person is doing it.

I'll take this time to say thanks to my friend who made it possible for me to explore some of my solo capabilities! I have a feeling this won't be the first or last time I perform with this group.

Until next time, take care readers!

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