by Author nicbriggs

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Celebrating success by Paul Carroll (Quench Arts' Wavelength Project Music Leader)

This is the time of the year that the participants, artists, management at Quench Arts, as well as friends, family and peers celebrate the success of all the hard work that’s gone into making new music over the last year. To feel like celebrating, you have to understand what’s been achieved so, when designing and delivering a music project, it is a good idea to include some published recordings and / or some kind of performance or informal sharing. Both these project outcomes are a means of celebration in themselves but they also encourage self-reflection on the part of the participants and staff as well as feedback from friends, family and peers.

Overall, performance and recording give the sessions much more of a focus. It’s easier to say to participant, “Let’s write some music to upload or put on to a CD and maybe we could perform it” than “Let’s write some music.” It places the focus on something that people understand - listening to music - and moves away from the focus of something that may not be so familiar to participants: creating new music from scratch.

A recording is a lasting memento, something to listen to and reflect objectively how well we did. It’s also a good way of sharing achievements and then enjoying the feedback from others. This can be good for self-esteem and encourage participants to continue along their musical path. The danger here is that the recording is unsatisfactory and gives the opposite results. That is why it is important that the appropriate amount of time is allowed to develop material that is within the participants’ comfort zone and to perfect their music. It is then our job to frame it in a musical way, mixing the various instruments well and, if necessary, adding to the arrangement to make it sound as professional as possible.

Performing is a tricky one. I am moved when I see people get up and have a go for the first time, especially young people because, even as a healthy person in my teens, getting up in front of people and speaking or playing music was my worst nightmare! The key thing is that the opportunity to perform will motivate some but have negative impact on others so it must be optional.

A concert situation is more likely to be a one-off situation without the luxury of time to correct mistakes like you can in a recording studio and yet people step up to the stage and do it! There is the benefit then to see and hear the immediate appreciation of the audience and then verbal feedback afterwards. In most cases, any mistakes go unnoticed and, with the friendly audiences who usually turn up to community music events, any hesitation or visual nerves will only win the audience over even more and it can make the show all the more powerful when we have witnessed people overcome something and produce a wonderful sound.

On that note, project performances should be presented at a quality venue with a good sound system and a good sound technician to make the music sound as good as possible. Stage lights are a bonus and can make the whole show look more professional. In fact, I’ve seen situations many times when you put someone under lights, in front of a microphone, before an audience, and the performance is so much better than the last rehearsal. Many people just automatically switch into “performance mode.” It should also be emphasised that, again, the appropriate amount of time for rehearsal should be scheduled in advance as well as provision of other materials like recordings and lyric sheets for participants to practise with in their own time at home.

The Wavelength sharing took place at mac Birmingham on Sunday 27 June and it was a huge success, leaving everyone, performers and audience, with smiles on their faces!