Getting back to live singing – ‘The Ensemble Project’

Over the summer of 2020, lockdown started to lift – in strange ways, that many of us choir leaders felt pushed our return to work further away. Up and down the country we were thinking of ways to get our choirs singing again – and safely.

About 8 years ago, I did a project with my choir, The Lost Sound, which was a much smaller choir then, only 22 singers. We split into all male and all female groups and worked on a song specific to what we needed to improve in our sound and skills. We had group coaching sessions in front of each other and they saw how each group improved, both in performance and skill.
In The Lost Sound we don’t normally have enough time for such a luxury now, as we are always working towards a concert with upto 19 songs in a set. Even though it helps the overall development of the choir enormously, we just hadn’t had the time to work on ALL our singers in this way. Now, we had the time, and ‘The Ensemble Project’ was conceived over August, with the view to keeping singers in their geographical location and only meeting in up to groups of 6. So we have duos to sextets dotted around South and Mid Devon happily singing in back gardens, warehouses, parks and forecourts! We’ve had tremendous support from local businesses offering us their showrooms and warehouses to sing in – who knew we would be singing amongst kitchens and jigsaws!

Singing in back gardens, parks and 3 walled rooms!

It has amazed me how well prepared each group has been. Singers are coming to their group having learnt their notes, ready to sing and have worked very hard on learning new skills of holding their parts without help. All groups are doing well and some are excellent. Each singer has had a challenge in either the part they are singing (i.e Singing lead when usually the harmony or vice versa, having to use different tonal colours to blend with very different singers, holding their own part on their own and making up their own harmony lines) All of them also have to run and co-ordinate their own rehearsals and I visit about 3 times each, to coach. I travel around to each group to coach them and by the end of it we would potentially have 9 new songs to use in our set, more confident singers and hopefully have a lot of fun whilst we got back to some harmony!

Singing in Bradburys of Exeter Kitchen Showroom

It has also thrown up some confidence issues and some technical issues that have need some extra help. And that is the beauty of this project, I can give personal time to a singer who needs that shift of thinking, or extra tuition on skills. Each group is small enough for them to hear/feel/understand what is going on for them and they have the eagerness to shift it for their groups betterment. We’ve had some amazing breakthroughs in thinking and mindset, some illuminating insights into how they listen and improved our skills in timing, tuning and blend.

I’m hoping the resulting videos will do them justice, as it has been an enormously fun project and very worthwhile for all of us.
You can catch the results after Oct 25th on The Lost Sound social media on Facebook Instagram and Twitter and our website

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Sandra Smith is the director of The Lost Sound Dartmoor Folk Choir, visit their dedicated website to find out more.

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