Saturday 14 November 2015

Singing to Break the Ice

I was intrigued to read the research from Oxford about singing as the most effective way to break the ice with groups.

I read this just as I was starting running a Leadership Programme with the VC at Winchester University, for 20 or so academics and professional services staff. 

So it seemed a good idea to apply the research. The question was, what to get them to sing.  I decided on monophonic (rather than say, barbershop!) music, as I wanted to work within my own limitations, and did not want to spend too long on the exercise.

But I also wanted something that would be challenging, new to them, and relevant. As it was just before Remembrance Sunday, and also because it is music I know well, I decided on the Introit from the Gregorian Chant Requiem. 

It felt a little risky, but I explained to them why we were doing it (ie I'd just read some research) and then taught them the first phrase, word by word. I displayed the music on a screen (and much help that was, I am sure). They entered into it with a will, and one of them made a point of telling me later that she and others with whom she had talked had really liked the exercise.

Encouraged by that feedback, I did the same thing with a similar group in Cardiff, again with the VC obliged to sing along, on Remembrance Day itself. This time, the exercise was greeted by applause. 

To be honest, I wondered if the applause was at least in part an emotional discharge, as I know some people find the requirement to sing in public embarrassing. So I will read the written (and anonymous if desired) feedback from both groups with particular interest. And if it does mention the icebreaker, I will report back here.

In the meantime, this is how it should sound: from a concert I organised a decade or more back with the Schola Cantorum (School of Chant) with which I used to sing in Newcastle.

For the record, it was a wonderful concert. Eric Cross's choir joined us, and sang the Duruflé Requiem, which is clearly based on the Gregorian Chant melodies, with modern French harmonisation. And the way we programmed it, was to put the movements side by side: so we sang the chant Introit, then the choir sand the Duruflé Introit, and so on.

So here is the Duruflé Introit (and the rest of his Requiem, come to that), for old times' sake.

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