Sitar player

We went to Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent today to enjoy something called the Big Feast which is run by a group called Appetite and is held in the summer. I’m in two choirs and we had two spots to sing at (hence no photo of us). Between our spots were a couple of musicians playing a sitar and drums. The sitar was made of a pumpkin? Or gourd? With a long wooden neck. The sitar player said the instrument had seventeen strings. He explained that he played the opposite technique to the famous player Ravi Shankar. However he played it was very beautiful. I admire both players skill.

Socially distanced choir

We finally sang as a choir tonight. We were socially distanced. Each of us had a chair placed behind a CD. Two meters apart. We did some stretches and vocal exercises and suddenly we were singing together in reasonable harmony. We even sang in parts, soprano, tenor, alto and base. It was lovely! No zoom where all you can hear is yourself and the choir leaders. We started quietly but by the end we had some volume. Hearing each other gets the camaraderie going again.n

Next stop, singing in public at a canal day this coming Sunday. I hope we all stay well and the weather improves!

Spooky mask

Pre covid, my friend at the Wassail for a local apple tree.

Wassail? An ancient celebration to encourage apple trees to be fruitful again this year. In Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent it is celebrated by our local Morris Dancing team.

Morris Dancing? In ancient times Local groups of men (now anyone can join) used to get together and dress up, wearing boots or heavy clogs on their feet. Dancing to ancient tunes. Sometimes there is a person dressed as a hobby horse (with a large skirt and a carved horse head worn as a mask?) I don’t know enough about Morris history. I’m sure there is a lot of information out there.

So why this photo? It’s blurry, but it was taken at a Wassail. The Morris men were dancing, and the apple tree was beaten with sticks to get it to grow. And amidst it was my friend in his plague doctors mask, Cape and tricorn hat. And today I found it again and thought… Why not?

Sketching a choir

Take a dried up, broad nib, calligraphy felt pen. Start drawing, watch as the view changes because the line up of images moves when you have the songsheet with the words displayed. Try and sing and draw at the same time! It’s hard to look down at your sketchbook, up at the words, and across to your fellow choir members. I challenged them to try and recognise themselves from these crude sketches.

Mark

Mark who was part of this evenings Clay Chorus group. He played two brilliant songs. I used a bit of monoprint to add shadows to the side of his face. I only used a bit as he was moving and playing his guitar as I was trying to sketch him.

I wish I had his skill and had carried on learning an instrument, it’s great to be able to play things, but my trumpet is staying firmly locked away!

Stoke Sings Spirituals

Dr Kathy Bullock ran the afternoon workshop for the Stoke Sings Festival 2021, #ssf21. She was brilliant, giving a history of the slave trade and the way people were transported from Africa across the world as slaves. Dragged from their homes and imprisoned in cells until ships came and took them away. She explained the inhuman ways they were held and treated. Their transportation in ships where they were often thrown overboard if they were sick or had died during the passage. Beaten and tortured. And from this came the spiritual songs people sang as they worked, and later the Gospel songs as they worshipped. The history of African America is so sad and their treatment was and is despicable. They deserve the freedom that some people just have through the luck of birth.

The workshop was wonderful, Dr Bullock’s singing is great. It was so informative and thought provoking.