As part of “Musical Director Appreciation Week”, we thought we’d ask our MD, Dr Liz Garnett, a few questions.
Q: When you’re not singing, coaching or arranging, what do you like to do to relax?
Liz: I like to cook - I'll read a bunch of different recipes, then put them all aside and go play in the kitchen. The results are always nutritious and usually edible.
Q: What non-barbershop music do you love?
Liz: I feel like I became a musician (as opposed to just someone who happened to be learning the piano) when I discovered Debussy, and Stravinky's Rite of Spring remains endlessly fascinating.
Q: You have an impressive range of footwear - where does that come from?
Liz: I like to quip that it's to distract people from looking at my face.
Q: Many barbershoppers are self taught musicians - are you?
Liz: No, quite the opposite in my case. One of the adventures in discovering barbershop soon after completing my PhD in Music was finding out just which bits of that training would be relevant to this new (to me) musical world, and which bits I'd need to learn all over from scratch!
Q: So when did you first get into barbershop?
In 1996. I went with my partner, Jonathan, to the BABS Convention when he had joined a chorus, and have not yet come up for air.
Q: What is so special about the barbershop community?
Liz: It's like a kind of parallel universe. There are people you see only a couple of times a year, but each time you see them you just pick up where you left off. And it's a universe in which the cool kids and nerds really like each other.
Q: Which barbershop singer, quartet or chorus do you most admire? Who have influenced you most?
Liz: At a personal level, special mentions to Tom Gentry for his support early on in my barbershop career, and the late Roger Payne for pushing me to put myself out there as an arranger at a time when I had almost given up through discouragement. At a more global level I'd say the architects of modern barbershop are the triumverate of Jim Clancy, David Wright and Cindy Hansen. A lot of the innovations we see these days would not have been possible without their work to pave the way.
Q: As well as singer and MD you have also acted as judge in music competitions. What makes a really great performance?
Liz: Sometimes a group simply outperforms themselves: something in their relationship with their music, with their skillset, with each other, and with the occasion lights them up and sets their performance on fire.
Q: You’re known internationally as a vocal arranger - what have been your most popular arrangements?
Liz: Over the years, my most widely sung chart has been Happy Together, which was published by the Barbershop Harmony Society in 2005. My current biggest seller is Mr Blue Sky, originally commissioned by the Telfordaires. I mostly work by commission, so I never really know what's coming up, and I rather like that element of surprise.
Q: You also offer vocal coaching to groups and individuals. Do you enjoy teaching?
Liz: It is immensely satisfying to help people become more confident and skilled at doing something they love. And instructive - I learn so much from the people I work with.
Q: You have put enormous effort into sustaining Telfordaires rehearsals through an extended period when, because of COVID, we haven’t been able to meet on the risers. What have been the biggest challenges? And what the biggest successes?
Liz: Reimagining the rehearsal process when the technology prevents simultaneous singing as a group has been the fundamental challenge: how do we still connect with each other musically?
Overall, the biggest success is the way the club has pulled together to make this work. The Music Team has been awesome - there's been a lot of extra work behind the scenes, made harder by having to do it all remotely - but the whole club has been great at taking initiative and making things happen. At an artistic level, my heart glows when despite it all we can still celebrate moments of beauty, of artistry, of increased technical control, of individual expressiveness. In a bleak year, we can still create genuine musical experiences for each other.
Q: And finally, what do you love most about the Telfordaires?
Liz: The chorus culture. So friendly and supportive and always willing to laugh. I love that we can all care deeply about making the music as good as we can without having to take ourselves too seriously.
If you’d like to find out more about Liz and her work as a professional coach and arranger, and to read her regularly updated blog, then do visit her website www.helpingyouharmonise.com
|After 11 weeks of Saturday supplement rehearsals I am sad to say we are having to bring them to a temporary halt.. We have managed to overcome wind, rain, occasional sunshine and even forklift trucks with loud beepers. But with the Governments imposition of the second national lockdown we must regretfully comply. |
These rehearsals, held alternately in the garden of the Elephant and Castle, Dawley and at the rear loading bay of Dukeshill Foods in Horton Wood, have been literally a breath of fresh air.
They have been conducted with strict social distancing. and we have learnt how to sing while wearing face masks and even the advantages ,or not,of the different style of masks available. but first and foremost they have reminded us of the joy of singing together in harmony. We will continue to rehearse using the Zoom platform on Wednesday evenings for as long as needs be but I for one will eagerly look forward to firstly being able to continue our Saturday sessions and then eventually being able to return to indoor rehearsals and performances to live audiences.
I would like to thank all of those who have made these Saturday sessions possible as they have reminded me of the joy of singing in Harmony and why I love this hobby.
Liz has been studying the reports on "How we can get sing together" for some time, following the advice on aerosol production and how we can keep safe.
Singing together in the same space has not happened since March.
Today we had the first tryout of a new model of rehearsing. The chorus was queried for their availability for a weekend rehearsal, and lots were draw. Actual inclusion was by invitation.
We met in the garden of The Elephant & Castle, which is run by John, one of our new members. Plastic plates marked the points in the stack, each one socially distanced from each member's neighbouring singers. You can see how far we were from each other in the photos.
Our singers (and indeed conductor, Liz) were masked up to limit the production of aerosols.
We warmed up. In many ways it was like exercises we'd done before to encourage us to "listen louder". We sang, and could see Liz's eyes light up as we had real chords, and overtones being formed. We started with "Heart of my Heart" as most of us knew it well. Then a break after 20 minutes to allow the wind to change the air in the vicinity. Then we sung the song we've been learning in lockdown - and it worked. There were a few times where "brains were dropped on the floor", but they were picked up, our learning was advanced and we moved on. The mark 2 version was better.
The same pattern followed with "Old me better", and "My Girl" - 20 minutes of singing, followed by a 5 minute break. We worked on parts of the songs that warranted the extra attention, before finishing on our new song.
(At this point - I'm not going to announce "our new song", as it'd be a spoiler for a future post :))
So after about an hour our first "together" rehearsal finished, and I believe we were all thrilled to be back singing together. We're not back to normal. It's still not the same as the Wednesday evening rehearsals at Old Hall School, but it was great. It was even interrupted by a proper downpour, but it didn't stop us.
The other half of the Telfordaires team get to do it next week. I hope they have as much fun as we did, and better weather.
|For more information, see:||www.facebook.com/Telfordaires/|
So we were delighted when she accepted Liz’s invitation to run two online rehearsals for the Telfordaires from her home in southern Germany. Her theme was vocal expressiveness: how to get your meaning over in song.
|For more information, see:||https://www.singbarbershop.com/news/2020-events-announcement|
By Tim Ashton
Telfordaires Barbershop Chorus
The Telfordaires missed out on the annual convention this year as the Harrogate venue was commandeered as a Nightingale Hospital. So we asked long-standing Telfordaire Tim Ashton to recall his first experience of Convention – in 2008 in Cheltenham
“The Friday allowed for a little relaxation, a couple of beers and general humour. Not too much beer though, I don’t sing Bass! My colleagues would not have noticed at this point that I was getting somewhat nervous, whilst also being very excited about the day ahead. They would have seen the usual guy with a mix of silliness and general tomfoolery. But underneath, the emotions were a jangle. I found myself running through the songs in my head, checking I knew them and that I wasn’t going to let anyone down. For two years, I had been building up to this. I’m sure the seasoned campaigners were now in a comfort zone, me, I was in new territory.
Saturday morning arrived and an early rehearsal. My god! What are these warm up exercises? Are they trying to kill me? Let’s just sing the songs….oh, hang on, I feel looser and lively. I don’t do lively in the mornings. Is my throat feeling sore? I’m not going to be able to sing! No, a drink of water has cleared it.
At this point my nerves are beginning to fray. I am not worried about the audience, but our song is so special and I don’t want to let the Chorus down by messing it up. A couple of people have asked me how I am feeling. I lie and put up the shell that says “fine no problem, what’s all the fuss about?”.
As we are ready early, and run through the first song. Other choruses also changing stop and listen, I could tell they were impressed. Now I’m feeling good. Seeing the positive reaction of my peers has given me a confidence boost, I know this is a good package and we can sing it. I can sing it!
We move through to the warm up room, a couple of more rehearsals and a practice getting on and off stage. I’m ready! Let me at them! Now the warmth and camaraderie that typifies our chorus shows again, as one member comes to me, realising it’s my first time, and takes me through what going on stage is likely to feel like. Top man! We move to the holding area and I focus on the story of the song we are about to sing. A great place for my mind to escape to, keeping away any anxiety. I just want to sing.
The Telfordaires at the Cheltenham Convention 2008
On to the stage, the marks are still being collected from the previous chorus. Couldn’t they do that before we came out! I want to get on and sing! They’re ready for us, there’s the pitch…sing! Where have all those nerves gone? It feels so natural; it’s supposed to be tough at Convention. This feels like a place I belong. Or is this a function of all the preparation? Is this why we take such pains running through every detail?
Off stage now, five minutes have passed in a flicker of an eye. I just want to do it again. I know we’ve done well, The MD’s face says so. Lots of mutual congratulations, damn I feel good! I’m sure if we could sell this Barbershop as a white powder we’d make a fortune on the streets. This buzz must be illegal.”
Tim's hard work paid off, as in 2008, the Telfordaires, under the direction of MD Dale Kynaston, were placed 6th in the Small Chorus Trophy. And Tim is now a stalwart of the Lead Section.
|YouTube Video URL:|
By Ian Clark
Saturday 30th May 2020
So you thought Barbershop was ‘serious’ stuff? Well it turns out it's true, and comedy songs are no exception!
We had an extremely informative virtual session with Dale Kynaston (many of you will know him as a former MD of the Telfordaires and BABS Bigwig). He took us through a comprehensive look at what goes into creating a good comedy song. Who knew there was such a variety of styles, from Parody, slapstick to witty observations on life?! One of the main themes was how to take the audience on a journey using movement, visual impact, superb harmonies and above all ‘believability’. To quote Dale, "If the singers don't believe in the story, then neither will the audience“.
So a small team will be focusing on looking at comedy as part of the Telfordaires repertoire and, having seen previous outings including the infamous Convention 2012, the gauntlet has been laid down.
Dale's passion, experience and knowledge was both inspiring and contagious. I think all of us who participated felt some trepidation but above all excitement at the thought of working on some songs that would create amusement and, hopefully, raucous laughter for future audiences.
So this is a kind of ‘watch this space’ note. It’s the start of a journey and a bit like our current situation, can’t be sure how it will end. However, I can guarantee, from my few months as part of the Telfordaires, IT WILL BE GOOD.
So stay safe and connected with the people and things you love.
|As of Wednesday 18 March 2020, the Telfordaires are moving club night online. Even before the announcement on 16 March that the country was to move to social distancing in response to the covid-19 outbreak, we were drawing up plans to find ways to stay connected while also keeping each other safe.|
We are still meeting every Wednesday 7.30 - 9.30 pm, but rehearsals are now virtual, rather than in person. This means that if you were planning to come and visit, don't come along to the Old Hall School, as we won't be there! But we can invite you to log in and indeed join in to at least some of our evening's activities - drop us an email and we'll tell you how.
Our MD Liz has written a blog post about how we're going about this, and the thinking behind it: http://helpingyouharmonise.com/remote
Stay safe, but also keep singing!