Italian Sample Project - CoRe
Choir of rest homes guests and carers in the “Empolese-Valdelsa” district
A typical CoRe session
A typical CoRe rehearsal meeting takes place according to a certain sequence of activities. Participants are usually about 50-60 old people from around ten rest homes. They are arranged in a semicircle, with the choir master at the center and volunteers and geriatric_educators/activity_coordinators scattered in the group, supporting them.
1. Welcome and opening
The start of the activity (ice-breaking is always quite difficult) is usually marked by something that attracts the attention of everybody and directs it to the same subject, creating this way a situation of silence or participation to the same sound event (e. g. everybody start singing the same thing). Often this "something" is simply the sound of the accordion, sometimes the voice of a soloist spurred to sing (to "throw a song in the fray", like we often do after the dinner of a group of choir singers, and everybody stops chatting in small groups and start singing the same thing together with all the others).
Only after this “gathering in music” (through which participants identify themselves as a group-choir) an educator or the choir master greet them saying something, sometimes just a welcome to everybody, sometimes a more complex speech, to explain what we will do (or what we did/we are doing in the project) and to share and increase the awareness of all participants.
2. Warming up
We almost never start with a song, and never with a song that requires reading. Instead, we devote some time to a vocal trainign, in order to strengthen the action and awareness of the group, i. e.:
- warm up, boost enthusiasm, channel participants' energy towards singing together;
- support listening the others and the group and promote attention towards the choir master, answering specific spurs/suggestions (especially non verbal ones) and developing this way the relationship voice-eye-ear (regaining physical, attention and concentration capabilities)
To this end we employ:
- non sense vocal games, circle songs or similar (always with some improvisation). Some of them, such as the bom bom /la la la are now established and work also as initial rite;
- echo/repetition exercises based on small vocal fragments between the master and the choir, to explore different ways of use of the voice and develop listening.
3. Rehearsing songs
Proposed songs may be new to the choir. In this case some of the participants may know them, sometimes with different words. They are taught:
- by imitation (listen and repeat by small fragments);
- with the help of written text.
Text are created according to two main methodological elements:
- they are prepared and written ad hoc, paying attention to the dimension, so that to suggest the form of the song (stanzas, soloists, refrain, lines) and of the lyrics in the melody (long notes, melismatic behavior;
- they are not given to everybody indistinctly, but only tho those who can use them, with the help of carers. In other words, we try to maximize their effectiveness in relationship to the people involved. Sometimes we prepare even customized texts.
4. Other activities
This list of activities is not related to a scheduled order in the meeting. However, we almost always do these things during a meeting, so that they can be seen as essential features of a CoRe session.
A. Involvement of soloists
Only after some time spent singing all together some of the participants are asked to sing solo, and to the others to listen to them. Often we simply ask to repeat solo the song sang as a choir immediately before.
The soloist, whenever possible, stands up so the others can see him/her. It's a way to catch the attention of individual participants: there is a great potential, in terms of emotions and self-esteem, in singing solo in front of everybody.
Soloist are invited to sing offhanded, trying to keep into account their abilities, wishes and willingness at the moment, always paying attention to the “rhythm” of the session (in this phase knowing well participants is essential, as the trust of the old people with the group of carers and musicians).
B. Groups alternation
Rehearsal of songs or part of them alternating groups (often men/women) or with antiphonal structure. Specific objectives of these activities are: learning to comply to simple execution rules, wait for one's own turn, keep one's own role in the group, explore polivocal possibilities of CoRe and strategies to exploit them, maybe in view of future performances.
C. Percussive elements
- Percussions practice, where instruments are often made with common use objects or materials, e.g. pots, pieces of wood, etc.
A percussion session is usually led through gestural direction.
- Rehearsal of songs with percussive variants: inclusion of hand-clapping or percussions. In these cases, the group usually splits between those who sing and those who play.
Improvisation is often present during CoRe sessions, as a solo or guided group practice, involving both voice and percussions.
E. Collective discussion based on songs, music and lyrics
The music stops and its place is taken by discussion, sometimes spurred by questions and conversations that resemble interviews. This way a collective research about the themes of the songs is produced, collecting contributions by the old persons, including other songs that return to mind.
The goal of this activity, always present together with singing, is the development of awareness and active participation of the entire group, to empower it to actually have a strong influence on the final result: all contributions are welcome and can be accepted and a feature of CoRe is flexibility: scripts, activity programs and even musical material are changed and widened on the basis of contributions from old persons, and this always happens in a surprisingly strong way. We actually feel that flexibility should be regarded as one important core skill of the community musician.
Form the methodological point of view, these discussion phases are conducted this way:
- there ii a coordinator, someone who moderates, who asks for silence and calls for attention towards the person who is talking;
- the person who is contributing to the discussion is invited to stand up; when necessary, a carer repeats to the whole group what he said;
- the discussion is facilitated by an educator who takes cues, uses them with questions, etc. In this activity is always important to pay attention to the group as a whole, in order to understand when is good to switch again to group to avert wasting the energies of most of the participants.
5. Merenda (snack)
A CoRe Meeting ends with a snack, a final convivial time.
To fully understand the nature of a typical CoRe session it is important to think on tre features of each session, that characterize it and determine its effectiveness (or ineffectiveness).
1. During rehearsals, variations and interpretations are always experimented
It is important to stress the fact that rehearsals are meetings in which, on the basis of the script, new solutions are continuously experimented, different arrangements tested, soloist alternated, new memories brought about, performing and relational skills stimulated.
2 The relationship between the old persons and the choir master is based on trust built in time with the contribution of individual care and personal relationships with some of them. This can have a positive impact on the effectiveness of rehearsals, made easier because of the knowledge of people involved and the familiarity with them. For example, one observer commented on a session with these words:
“I very much liked how the choir master went to the people, looked in their eyes, got eye contact and also took under the arm. It assured. And brought them to the center. This is what loosens people- the eye contact and the physical contact. If people sit then he squatted to eye level and got this contact.”
3 The relationship between the social workers and the old persons is fundamental for the success of a CoRe session
The role of the workers in rehearsals is the same the have during performances (because rehearsals are a bit performances and the performances are a bit rehearsals):
- they provide support to the old persons, logistical (providing the lyrics of the songs, passing microphones, physically supporting participants, emotional (encouraging, managing stress and tiredness), ludic (dancing, singing together)
- they are involved in the same way as the old persons: during meetings and perofrmances, the relationship between them is perfectly equal.