Being Sensible with Silver Lining

SLjun24

My title today comes from one of the more surprising bits of feedback I have had after a coaching session. To be fair, it wasn’t actually me that was described as ‘sensible’ (I was as daft as ever), it was the ideas we had worked on. The point was that the singer didn’t feel she had a long shopping list of things to remember, because the ideas fitted in with her existing musical concept of the songs, but her use of the word ‘sensible’ to articulate this point still made me laugh out loud (well, squawk).

My day with Silver Lining chorus had the brief to help them discover more musical opportunities with the package they will be taking to LABBS Convention in the autumn, with its first complete outing at a local festival this month. They already had a clear concept of what they wanted to do with the two songs, so it was a matter of finding ways to help them realise that vision more vividly.

More Musings on ‘Old Barbershop’

When I last reflected on the category of ‘old barbershop’ eight years ago, I finished up by wondering what sounded normal then that would sound dated 20 years on. Well, it’s only eight years on, and I found myself thinking about perceptible cultural shifts again at the BABS Convention back in May.

My musings last time were mostly about musical things like approaches to voice-leading and embellishment and performance things like styles of body language in the context of continuous performance traditions. I did mention subject matter in passing, but only mentioned the most ostentatiously outmoded lyrics in defining the category of ‘old’.

Now, by contrast, I found myself observing a clear division in song storyline and lyric between those that evoked social relations that we would wish to promote these days in an organisation that celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion, and those in which the social relations feel uncomfortably old-school.

Happy Half-century to BABS!

Anniversary quartet champions Fifth Element on their victory lapAnniversary quartet champions Fifth Element on their victory lap

The Spring bank holiday weekend saw the British Association of Barbershop Singers hold their annual Convention in Harrogate, at which they celebrated the organisation’s 50th anniversary. It was a full schedule, with long contests as well as shows and various other activities, and it would have been pretty much impossible to partake of everything on offer as well as catch-up with friends.

To mark the occasion, all quartets who wanted to compete had been invited to do so at the convention itself (rather than going through a preliminary round some months earlier to select the top tranche to compete on the big stage); this meant that Friday was completely filled with the quartet semi-finals. Fortunately, the first ever livestream broadcast of a BABS convention meant that those who were still travelling up during the day were able to keep tabs on what was happening en route. (I hope it was only the car passengers watching while actually on the move, but as everyone turned up alive, I assume this was the case!)

In Memoriam: Valerie Clowes _

Valerie front and centre in blue: surrounded by some pretty awesome peopleValerie front and centre in blue: surrounded by some pretty awesome people

The first words Valerie Clowes said to me when I met her in person were, ‘I fucking love your blog!’, which I’d take as a compliment from anyone, but was particularly powerful coming from someone who could communicate so clearly and vividly about things that matter. A few days later, she greeted me as I ran into her on the Harmony University campus with the words: ‘Liz! We were just talking about female sexual autonomy...[in response to my ‘do go on’ face]...My Wild Irish Rose.’

Many words have been written over the past few days about Valerie, what she brought to the world, and how much she will be missed, and I’m not sure if I can add anything useful here. But even if I’m repeating what everyone else has already said, I’d like to take the space to honour her.

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