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Blog: Blog2

Opera-Tune Thoughts W3

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

This week we ran our third ‘Opera-Tune Thoughts’ workshop at Belong Morris Feinmann. We had 25 participants and 3 care staff attending this time, our biggest group to date. I also welcomed four lovely RNCM performing volunteers Yara, Iain, Nye and Susanna who helped facilitate the workshop and engage the residents.

We began the session with an exploration of costumes. The RNCM wardrobe department generously lent us a great variety of costumes from their store, these ranged from silk stockings to leather corsets, 1920’s hats and gloves to a string vest. The participants found great joy in exploring the items. We had people try them on or see them modelled on the volunteers. We discussed the costumes being used for the RNCM's Gianni Schicchi production in December and looked at copies of the designer’s mood boards for each character. Before the workshop I had interviewed the costume department staff about the practicalities of their work, and was able to share some interesting tidbits with the group which had been passed on by the wardrobe staff. For example for this production of Gianni Schicchi the only way they costume department could source a fabric that the designer envisioned for Lauretta’s dress was to use a Kath Kidston duvet cover, die it a faded pink colour and use the wrong side to give it a more aged look! This session sparked many memories for the residents, several participants recognised items as something they would have owned in their past such as 1950s the silk stockings, string vests and leather gloves. There was a great sense of fond familiarity, interest and engagement that was sparked from this costume exploration exercise.

Mood boards for the RNCM's production of Gianni Schicchi from the set and costume designer Nicolai Hart-Hansen:

Next we heard from the two volunteer singers Yara and Iain. Both sang contrasting pieces, which we chose based on conversations with the residents about their favourite classical composers in previous workshops.

Yara performing in this week's opera workshop

This week we tried a new activity: emotions BINGO. Here the participants were given a bingo sheet of various emotional descriptions such as ‘happy, sad, desperate, passionate’. We then played audio from famous opera arias, and for each aria asked the group to circle any emotion they perceived was being expressed. Once they had a row of 4 they shouted ‘BINGO’ and the first one to do so won a prize, a special edition CD of famous opera arias. This exercise was something that we trialled, and overall it went very well. Certainly some participants needed more assistance than others in engaging with the task, however on the whole it seemed that the exercise was enjoyable and provided a new way for people to engage in listening and perceiving music. Many members came close to BINGO however ultimately we had one very happy winner, who promised to play the CD in a communal area of the home so that everyone could share in the prize!

Following on from the idea behind emotions BINGO we did an engaging percussion exercise to a Neapolitan Tarantella which we listened to in the first week, played by Nye on the piano. This time however we built upon the activity by changing the pace of the music, the dynamics and the expression to encourage the participants to listen and respond to the changing musical cues. This activity went very well, and once again seemed to be widely enjoyed and engaging to most participants.

We finished with a final performance from Yara, and then ended the session with the sing-a-long of ‘Oh Mio Babbino Caro’. The participants picked up the lyrics and tune noticeably quicker this week, and it was clear that many of them were much more familiar with the song than the first week which was wonderful to see.

Feedback from this week was very positive. There were a few participants who had not previously attended a session who really enjoyed their experience. Once again the singers gave fantastic feedback on their experience with all four volunteers indicating they would want to volunteer in a future project.

Next week it will be our final workshop for this series at Belong, I am so proud of how much support, positive feedback and appreciation has been expressed by the volunteers, residents and staff at Belong. I am so looking forward to our final session and tying up the wonderful experience that this collaborative project has afford.

Feedback from our volunteers:

“It was very lovely, and as a volunteer it filled me with joy and purpose.”

“I learned more about creating and carrying out workshops for older people.”

“Very fulfilling, it felt very nice- like I’m actually using music for making a change to people who need it most.”

“I learned how much people really can be moved by music.”

“The workshop was calm and engaging. It was lovely to see faces light up and some people join in.”

“A particular highlight was singing ‘O Mio Babbino’ and watching the guests really join in and come alive.”

More videos of SoundUp Arts Workshops can be found on youtube by searching SoundUp Arts.

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