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In Flagrante In Training

Our beloved Financial Director, Jan, is generously giving her time and sharing her knowledge to give us vocal techniques to strengthen and project our voices before our choir rehearsals start. The first session was this week and eight of us were able to take up the offer. It was most informative making us aware of our bodies. posture and breath and how much (or little) we use our lungs! We were even able to lie down on the floor and feel how our back muscles are used when deep breathing. We learned how to control our breathing to get resonance to project our voices. This is just the start and this lesson will be repeated in a few weeks’ time for those who were unable to attend as well as a reminder for those who have already attended.

When our usual warm ups were completed, we sang through Those Were the Days and went over the harmonies and aimed to get the muscular ‘Ls’ in the La, la las, starting softly and building up. The tenors learned their ‘Oohs’ and now they know the notes they just need to add line and melody to make a beautiful sound.

Then came a new song, Matthew & Son, a single written, composed, and performed by Cat Stevens. It was selected as the title song for his 1967 debut album.

Stevens was a newly signed teenage singer-songwriter, who performed to elaborate arrangements quite different from the skiffle which had, in part, inspired him to begin writing and performing. The song remains Cat Stevens' highest charting single in the British Isles, reaching Number 2 in the UK and Number 3 in Ireland in early 1967. The song, according to Stevens, took its name from the tailor, Henry Matthews, who made suits for Stevens, who thought up the story of the worker who is the main character in the song. Stevens later commented, "I had a girlfriend, and she was working for this big firm, and I didn't like the way that she had to spend so much of her time working. The riff seemed to fit the words, Matthew and Son. There was a bit of social comment there about people being slaves to other people.

Eamonn’s version, of course, needs lots of energy and athletic breathing as well as a little yodel in it. ‘Do, do, do do, do dyoo do do’. He wrote it so he wants to hear it! There are a lot of traps with timings etc in this song, so listen to the tracks. Homework for all!

We eventually completed Mr. Blue Sky and carefully went over the ‘Ba ba ba’ ending. The tenors and altos need to Shut Up, Shut Up before starting their ‘ba ba ba bas’ as the sopranos start them off. Once we had mastered this, we sang it from the top. By the time we reached the bottom, Eamonn was very pleased.

We will be singing Mr, Blue Sky every week from now on until the concert!

For those of us who experienced Jan’s tutoring beforehand, we really felt the benefit from the breathing techniques to help us regulate our breathing through these challenging pieces and engaging the back muscles to hit the high notes. It really does work! And we’ve only just begun learning the methods. We finished with Here Comes the Sun which was well remembered.

We are improving all the time with listening to the tracks and feeding the short term memory into the long term memory!

Keep up the good work!

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