When Cleveland met the Chorus…

Cleveland Watkiss MBE met up with members of Hull Freedom Chorus for the first time last week, to start working on a piece for July’s show at Hull Truck Theatre. Musical Director Em Whitfield Brooks sent us an update…

Well! What a fantastic evening we all had last night at our first workshop with the mighty Cleveland Watkiss. In just two hours we were introduced to a fearless approach to improvisation, as Cleveland led us into all sorts of riffs, harmonies and grooves, all flowing beautifully one into another. I loved the way he spoke of how we need to be to improvise: playful, joyful and full of ease – none of that “it’s really special and difficult” mantra which can put so many singers off singing freely in any genre.

We sang together, we sang in parts, we watched and listened as Cleveland sang new patterns and shapes – all over an extraordinary vocal range –  and the evening culminated in solos from many of our singers, based around our own lyrics, so warmly – and often hilariously – supported by Cleveland.

Next week it’s on with my piece – but already we cant work to work with ‘The Captain of the Ship’ when he comes back for our second workshop.

Tickets for the show on 19 July are available from Hull Truck Theatre online, in person at the box office or by calling 014820 323638.

Hull Freedom Chorus discover their Jazz voice!

This weekend saw the first in a series of workshops for members of Hull Freedom Chorus, leading up to a performance with Cleveland Watkiss at Hull Jazz Festival this July.

The project’s part of Hull City Council’s Singing City initiative, aimed at encouraging more people to sing and promoting opportunities for audiences to experience high quality choral music.

Hull Freedom Chorus at the end of their first Jazz workshop

Clare Drury, Arts Development Officer for City of Hull Council, told us: “We had almost 100 participants from Hull Freedom Chorus, for the launch of our Jazz Festival project yesterday. A great day exploring the nature of Jazz and finding our Jazz Voices with Em Whitfield Brooks.”

We asked Musical Director Em how the workshop went, and to tell us a bit more about the plans for the project:

What a great start! 102 people signed up to the first workshop – an open taster for the project that builds towards the Freedom Chorus singing alongside Cleveland Watkiss, and also performing a brand new piece, What If..? which all singers are involved in making. 

I’m bringing some of my songs, and writing some new ones, and we’re exploring our ‘Jazz voices’ – whatever that means.

A few furrowed brows when I posed the question: What Is Jazz? But once we realised that, in this project at any rate, the exploration of that question is the journey itself – and we don’t need to hold to any one answer in particular – voices and ideas started to flow.  Singers sang patterns, created riffs and explored the feel and difference of major and minor, and I taught a couple of sections from two existing songs.

Most exciting was the short layered pieces created by singers in small groups – some of which are likely to be incorporated into the final piece. Looking forward to this process with a great bunch of people…”

Judging by the smiles in the photos from Sunday’s workshop, and the feedback on Freedom Chorus’ Facebook page, we’re guessing everyone enjoyed themselves. And we can’t wait to hear what they come up with over the next 3 months.

Tickets for the final performance are on sale now from Hull Truck Theatre online or by calling the box office on 01482 323638.