On the 27th November 2012, I attended my first singing workshop as a part of my current work placement with Sound Connections. It was actually the first day of my placement so I had no idea what to expect! Well-known choir leader and singing lady, Gitika Partington, led the day, teaching us new techniques and creative ideas to boost confidence and learn where to actually start when leading a choir. It was a full turn out for the workshop, which was attended by primary school teachers, community leaders and freelance choir leaders, as well as lots of people who just fancied giving it a go.

We started off with some vocal warm-ups, which Gitika used to create harmony. This use of warming up actually created a really great sound from the group, which made for a really exciting atmosphere! Realising what we could create from such a simple idea, we split off into smaller workshop groups and created our own Harmonies by inventing rounds. We used speaking, as well as singing, which I realised made being a part of a choir much more accessible to everyone, particularly primary school children who may be nervous about singing or joining a choir. Speaking is something that we do every day, so it’s a great way to ease people who aren’t experienced with singing into getting involved.

The rest of the workshop followed suit. We spent the afternoon learning songs and ways to get children, young people and adults involved and excited about singing. One aspect of Gitika’s teaching that really interested me was her use of aural teaching – not once did we use any sheet music. She successfully taught us several songs without the use of any written notation. It dawned on me that so many people, no matter their age, must be put off singing in a choir because they can’t read sheet music or are simply intimidated by the reading of notation. Gitika entirely proved that you don’t need sheet music to lead a choir. In fact, I realised that it can often become a barrier in terms of a choir’s creative flow, in that notation can often equal rules. There is no room for the kinds of improvisation that Gitika encouraged us to do when you are singing Bach chorales! We used speaking, singing and different interesting noises to express our creativity and a choir that does this without sheet music is a choir that is accessible to EVERYONE.

The day was a huge success, with lots of positive feedback Almost everyone commented about how great the warm up exercises were for getting creative and encouraging people to join a choir. We all took away some really great tips, including how to conduct using hand signals and gestures, how to use call and response to teach a song and how to keep enthusiasm high in a vocal group. The workshop gave me a lot to think about in terms of setting up my own choir, which is a project I am currently undertaking with our very own Wired4Music members. It will be really exciting to get this youth project on the road, incorporating some of these techniques along the way.


Siân Dicker is a 22 year old second year music student,  completing a BMus degree at City University London and studying voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She is currently on a work placement with Sound Connections, working as the Wired4Music singing assistant. 

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