Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Saturday: the workshop and concert

OK, enough with the dramatic pause since last post, here’s how the workshop and concert went.

It was GREAT!!! And most of you know I’m not one to be overenthusiastic in my assessment of things I’m involved in. It was just great.

As per usual this week, I was working on what they call here “African time” (not due to my own tardiness, this time) and got to the radio station at about 9:45. There were about 20 people already seated in the auditorium, having checked in at a table in the back operated by the capable team of Carmen and Tamsa. Matt Allison had the sound system ready to go, and ended up running it all day. I had a quick conference with Ricky, the local person who was my “partner-in-charge” of the event (see his poster in a previous post), and we sketched out what the plan was for the moment and for the day. I gave him the registration/survey forms to be filled out by attendees. Along with the usual basic info, we asked them what they were into musically, what they wanted to get out of the workshop, etc. And at the bottom we asked them to find 3 people who had at least one same answer and write down their names and where they were from, just to get them talking to each other (never a bad time to network!).

Eventually we kicked off with a welcome from Imgard, the station manager, and worship music led by the very capable Darryl. My part involved leading a discussion of the elements of a song (lyrics, melody, meaning, emotion, etc.), and how to approach starting on one (title, first line, etc.). We did some little exercises or games to limber up our writing muscles, such as finishing the phrase “Roses are red, violets are blue” and making randomly-paired words to see what kind of metaphors might happen (thanks Pat Pattison!). The results were interesting to me as much as anyone, since I’d never actually done this stuff before. They seemed to enjoy it.

As we broke for lunch, Ricky “assigned” everyone the task of observing their surroundings and coming up with ideas for the song they’d be writing later. Had a tasty pepper steak meat pie and a Mountain Dew (not exactly the same taste, but close enough) in the park next to the station, with Ricky and Darryl. I was relieved my part was done and that it had gone better than I expected, and now I could simply enjoy the day.

After lunch, Ricky led a session that would probably never happen in Nashville: imagine 60 people in a room writing a song together. At the same time. With no waivers, paperwork, etc. to avoid copyright disputes in case the song ever became a hit. It was glorious. And a little dangerous, if not a tad irresponsible, but the benefits of the freedom and the sense of cooperation seemed worth it. This was Ricky’s idea, and frankly I was skeptical, but it just goes to show how much you can achieve when you don’t realize something can’t be done.

With musical help from Matt on guitar, Ricky got the group started with agreeing on a title, and a musical feel, then generated lines. Most of the attendees are involved in leading music in their churches, etc. and the level of talent was impressive, especially the vocals. Within an hour, they had the place swinging and swaying and shouting with approval at the various contributions from the floor, including some killer vocals. I got most of it on video, but hopefully they’ll get together and do a recording of the full song. But regardless, the experience was the thing, and it was good.

Jeromy Deibler of FFH took the next hour to share his experience, including a song or two. He greeted his cousin, a young woman he had met on his previous trip with Brentwood BC in March. Now he and his family, and his bro.-in-law and his wife, are all on a sort of sabbatical here for several months, working with the praise team at King of Kings BC (led by Living Hope founder John Thomas). His presentation was well-received.

Next Matt took the unenviable position of closing the day. A few of the attendees had had to leave before his session, and the rest were getting a little tired from the day (or was that just me?), but his info on the business aspects of music, and his own take on songwriting, were a vital part of the picture, and he fielded several questions before we wrapped up. I wish I could remember all the accolades and honors he’s received so far, but you can check his website for the full story: www.matt-allison.com

Matt and Jeromy & I left Ricky in charge of the house and shared an enjoyable café dinner up the road. When we returned, we set up for a round on stage, but as it became apparent that the concert would not be drawing more than a handful, someone suggested we put the chairs in a circle to include performers and audience. This was the perfect solution, especially since we had offered a few folks the chance to do one of their own songs in a limited open mic. The group grew to about 25, and it was a great evening of sharing songs of all sorts of styles, as well as an impromptu guitar lesson as Jeromy got Darryl to show him one of the chords he’d used. Darryl is one of the many people that day that proved that the instruction was going both directions that day, between Nashville and Cape Town. It was really more a matter of us proving why they don’t really need us, but we’re glad to be here anyway!

So, in case I didn’t mention it, the day was a great success, not only numerically, but also in achieving what we were after in concentrating the enthusiasm that existed already and giving it a nudge. It was great to see the faces and hear the feedback from the attendees. One little girl named Tabitha, 11 yrs. old, showed me the lyrics to her latest song (complete with verse and chorus divisions indicated). If you ever doubt the value and the future of music, come to S. Africa.

Here's a video of (most of) the song they came up with:

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