shetland odyssey

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the ferry

(photos from these workshops on their way...)



Tuesday 28 March

With Stuart, Evgeny, Marcus and Claire stuck on Fair Isle due to the fog (which meant the islander plane could not land to pick us up), Helen bravely took on the job of leading Tuesday's workshops alone. She had arrived by ferry from Aberdeen on the Monday, having driven her full concert harp up north the day before. The following account is written by Helen.

Helen’s Shetland Odyssey
When I arrived in Cullivoe sans the rest of CHROMA I was slightly apprehensive as to how the next couple of days were going to pan out. However after dinner with the Lawson family (Mark and his five children - his wife was in Lerwick Hospital about to give birth to their sixth) I sat down to plan the Cullivoe workshop on Stuart’s brief, which had arrived during my long journey up north, and then fine tuned it with Mark’s knowledge of his students.

The Cullivoe workshop was to run from 10am til 2pm. I arranged this time into 8 half hour segments. One of which was a morning break and another lunchtime.

Segment 1: Introductions.

I explained that CHROMA was to play in an opera in Shetland later in the year, and asked them whether they knew what an opera was. Received an affirmative and brief description from one of the kids. Gave a rather more exact desciption of the musical form!! I took them through the story of the Cyclops from the Odyssey, then moved on to explain the harp.

I began with the basics - number of strings etc and then played La Source and asked them to think of the water running down the mountain. When I finished I asked whether they had noticed the differences in the middle of the piece (it becomes faster, louder and more waterfall-like). I then explained more about the harp, the meaning of the coloured strings, pedals, different woods, how I transport the instrument and finished up playing the more flamboyant Fire Dance.

Segment 2: Morning Break
During which each child had a play on the harp and had their photo taken with it.

Segment 3: Warm Up
Arranged the group in a circle in the Main Hall.

1. Name Game: firstly, stepping into the circle and saying name
only, then everbody repeats the name; secondly, name plus
clapping in 4/4 time.
2. Pass the Clap: first, clap only; then in time; then sent it round
as fast as possible; then eyes shut (so they have to listen) and
lastly a simple rhythm.
3. Football Chants, split them into schools and made up rhythms
for them to chant. Firstly they demonstated their chant to each
other, then I talked about conductors and dynamics and
directed them in a shouting and whispering match.
4. Motorbike and bee imitating to overcome inhibitions regarding making
different noises
5. Instruments: Playing on a given beat.

Segments 4, 6 and 7 (5 being lunch)
The group was split into three by Mark Lawson so that the three schools were mixed up and so that each group had a range of ages in it.

Mark took one group and did music and movement with them. The task was for them to create an imaginary monster, name it and descibe it. They were also asked to describe how Odysseus would have dealt with it, then create "monster movement" to music and a four- line rhyme about the monster.

The monsters they created were called:

(Rhymes following!).

Music teacher Julie Johnson took another group and taught them the Sailor’s Life song. The words (written by Stuart) and actions were created to the Sailor’s Hornpipe.

My group was to learn the Odysseus song, also written by Stuart.

Firstly I recapped the story and also pronunciations of the main
players in the song.

The verses I taught as chanting to a drum beat supplied by two
members of each group. The drum signified the beating of a drum in
a galley boat. I beat the soundboard of my harp to help them
along with the rhythm. The chorus was then sung over harp arpeggios.
They were also taught a rhythmical Odysseus chant to tie in with the earlier football chants.

Someone noticed that Scylla ate ten men in this version, rather than
the six in the I explained about artistic licence.
They also made up actions for the second verse.

Segment 8: All together again!
We began by everyone singing the Sailor’s Life song together.

Then each group showed the others how their monsters moved, and descibed them to each other. This involved lots of desciptive words, together with some rugby tackling! I then taught them rhythms to chant their verses to.

This I followed by recapping the words to the Odysseus song.

Finally we performed it:

Began with the Odysseus chant - four times
added a drum beat (the rowing beat) - four times
First Verse - chant
Chorus - sung
1st monster rhyme - chant
Chorus - sung etc.
2nd monster rhyme
3rd monster rhyme
2nd verse
Odysseus chant - from pp with crescendo to ff

songs used during Yell workshops

Odysseus Song

Odysseus the warrior was a long, long way from home,
For twenty years he wandered with his men all alone,
Whilst trying to get back to the place where they belong,
They had some strange adventures which made their journey long.

Poor Odysseus, will he make it home?
Poor Odysseus, you never hear him moan,
Poor Odysseus, upon the seas alone,
Poor Odysseus when will he make it home.

The cyclops Polyphemus nearly ate his entire crew,
A Witch’s magic almost fooled our hero too.
Charybdis the great whirlpool almost drowned Odysseus’ men,
And Scylla with her grasping claws gulped down another ten.

Stuart playing the tune of the Odyssey Song can be heard here. (the first time Stuart's piano playing has been seen in public!)

Sailors’ Life.

It’s a sailors’ life, (salute)
and it’s really very tough, ( point to bicep)
Winds that cut like a knife (cutting the palm of hand)
when the sea is very rough, (sea motion with hand)
When you’re pulling up the rigging, (pull up the rigging)
And the sea-salt it is stinging, (rub eyes)
Then you wished you’d never signed up for a Sailors’ Life! (salute)