"We don't need no education..."

Well, yes we do actually! Getting regular doses of musical education is a huge bonus of being a WRT Rivertones member. As well as weekly tips at rehearsals, we usually have a couple of weekend 'retreats' each year with international or national coaches to help us polish our performances. At a recent retreat with vocal coach Virginia Humphrey-Taylor I learnt all about the benefits of coning, keeping my chin down and improving my breathing by widening my nostrils (I had no idea that nostril tape was a thing!). We have choreography to learn too (I'll talk about my dancing skills another time though lol). 

Retreat weekends are also a chance to have some fun, get to know each other better and have 'me' time.

Here's some thoughts on retreat from two of our members...

L - Leanne Wheeler (awesome assistant musical director)

R - Lise Harper (flamboyant floor team dancer)

Leanne: "WOW! What an amazing weekend. So much good advice – right from the first rehearsal on Friday evening to the last session on Sunday afternoon, the pearls of wisdom kept coming. Virg has an infinite wealth of knowledge and gave endless advice on everything from how to increase breath capacity, how to create all the vowels correctly, understanding where the vowel positions sit in our heads, how to execute consonants so the listener understands exactly whatwords are being sung and how to feel and hear when we are creating amazing resonance. Virg has techniques to ensure every person can sing high notes and low notes with ease, can pitch accurately and can ‘feel’ when it is right. Then there was ‘separate the flesh from the skeleton’. Imagine being told to keep your singer’s smile on the inside (skeleton face) but let your flesh droop to show you are despondent! ‘Flare your nostrils’, have at least one finger spacing between top and bottom teeth’, ‘ring your bottom teeth’, tilt your larynx forward’ and ‘show me your meat’!’ All these suggestions help the chords lock and ring, help to unify the sound, help to present clear diction, and help us to sing confidently. It will take a while to really cement all these suggestions with constant reminders and continuous practice but, if we can master even a couple of these techniques from the weekend, then the late nights (and self inflicted lack of sleep!) will have been worth it. Every coaching session, whether one day or a whole weekend, is the most valuable tool we can ever have as singers."

Lise: "A whole weekend of retreating from the normal world, with my sisters in song. Away from the comforts and duties of the family, the every-day cares, the little routines and rewards that make up 'home'. I’ve been on a number of retreats before (including with chorus), and I had figured out the retreating part, but realise it's the gift of a space to charge ahead and forge something new, something awesome. I adore retreat, with all it’s carb-laden food, tinsy tiny mugs, and broken sleep. Being with my friends and sisters, and working together as a team to make something bigger than our individual selves. It’s like having our Monday evening rehearsal time, except it's a solid weekend. Just as we are elated and uplifted by our three hours on the Monday, so the feeling is multiplied by the equivalent of three days!!! We sing, we move, we laugh, we groan, we eat, we laugh some more. Perfect!!!"

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