Friday, 27 January 2012

The Big Blast Band - Weeks 2 & 3

We are now three weeks in to the Big Blast Band music project and things are starting to come together. Next week sees the first group of four vocalists visit the recording studios situated to the rear of the Tariro coffee shop in Morden High Street, whilst eight others will continue with their work on rhythm and patterns with Elisabeth back at High Path. I’d like to be in both places at once to record what’s going on, but that might be a little tricky…

Wayne looking very much the part

Our intention through this project is to provide enough support, training and inspiration to allow this group of adults to belie their ‘learning disability’ status and to take their first steps in developing a musical sensibility. Not only are they learning about drumming, they are also slowly getting used to chanting and singing in public and this will be central to the climax of the project, a half-time rendition of their own version of the classic ‘We Are Wimbledon’ anthem! This is quite a lot to ask of a group of individuals who wouldn’t normally be the most vocal of supporters and we have to be careful that expectations are realistic and that the participants are not put in a difficult position. To guard against this John Merriman of the Crown Lane Recording Studio is working with us to help develop pre-recorded backing vocals to help on the day, just in case one or two find the event a little overwhelming. We want the occasion to be ‘loud and proud’ and to provide inspiration for others who might never have dreamed they could find themselves singing to 4,000 Wimbledon supporters, so a little backing support wouldn’t go amiss. It'll also provide the opportunity for a memento of the project with a suitable competition to design a cd cover as well!
All the Wimbledon gear comes out!
There’s quite a range of ability throughout the group and without the experience of Elisabeth Wigley of Merton Music Foundation it is highly unlikely that we’d be making the progress we are. Our usual session consists of twelve clients, Elisabeth and John (the two music professionals), four support workers from the day centre and two of us representing AFC Wimbledon, helping out where we can. That’s a high staff/client ratio but it does mean we can encourage and support everyone involved. It’s certainly been a learning curve for myself, both in putting together what is by some distance AFC Wimbledon’s most ambitious community project and in working with some extraordinarily friendly and welcoming people as well, including outreach worker Andy, despite his insisting that he’ll be wearing a different Chelsea shirt for every session but the last one, when he’ll ceremonially don a signed Sammy Hatton shirt!  You might think this was being a little provocative but Wimbledon supporter Marie was happy to put him in his place as she was asked to record a sentence beginning with the word 'Unfortunately'.
"Unfortunately I do not like people wearing Chelsea shirts...!"
Comfort first!
The first three sessions have been about getting to work together, trying out simple drumming patterns and encouraging the participants to find their own voice. Getting them to record a simple sentence or two which can be played back, distorted and generally mucked about with has been great fun, but possibly the most popular item to date has been the AFC Wimbledon community drum kit! You don’t have to ask twice when the seat becomes vacant and even the quietest participant has to be prised off to let someone else have a go. It's a sizable piece of equipment though but luckily there is a very understanding Merton employee who now shares his small High Path office with the drums for the rest of the week so I don't have to lug it about with me!

We are now moving into more specialist areas, working in smaller groups and concentrating more on how we are going to work with the music. 'We are Wimbledon' might have a delightful period 'cheese' about it but High Path will be supplying their own unique take on this classic track. Seven weeks to go!

This excerpt shows Elisabeth working with everyone on different chants. By the end of the session we had four different chants going at the same time which was pretty impressive!. You can also tell it was nearly time for a break as attention was flagging a little, but everyone still remembered when to stop.

1 comment:

john said...

A great read, and wow.... Hearing them in the studio this past week, it's going to be a great final performance!! Thanks Clive for these write ups... Spot on!!!