Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Delicate Art of 'Joining In'...



Last week one of our stalwart performers expressed some anxiety that his request that a certain section of our ad-hoc orchestra should not join in might be perceived as ‘rude’.
I admire that sensitivity. It was not rude, at all.
Indeed, the solo performance was most enjoyable and would not have been complemented by any accompaniment.

There is probably some unwritten etiquette involved here.
It’s a difficult one, and I know that Berry circulated his thoughts thereon in a pre-blog era. (They occupied three sides of single-spaced A4, if I recall correctly.)

If a performer says, “Please join in,” then that is clear permission to do so.
If it is obviously a chorus song, then joining in is almost obligatory.
However, beware!
How often have you tried to join in a chorus and found you seem to know different words?
Then, you have those PhD choruses that unexpectedly change and catch everybody out.
Remember, the performer is ALWAYS right!

There’s also harmony. I like that, but you have to be sure, not only of the words, but of the melody the singer is using.
I have been wrong on countless occasions with this.
You need to watch the performers lips to get the phrasing right.

As far as instrumentalists are concerned, it is important to establish what key the primary performer is using.
If it’s Berry in C-flat, don’t even try!
Assuming you don’t get dismissive looks from the performer, and that your spouse doesn’t kick you under the table, a tentative and quiet initial insertion is advisable.
Watch out for the affirmative nods or, otherwise ... any disapproving body language of the performer.

It strikes me that we at CFC have moved away from ‘jamming’.
In our singaround format we have to recognise that, for the duration of a performance, a performer is claiming temporary ownership of the piece. I’ve said something like that before.

Now, who was that idiot who ruined my song by playing in 7/4 time, with wrong notes, in the wrong key, on his concertina?
Oh, that must have been me!

Colin.

1 comment:

St. Anley said...

Yes, I admit it. I wrote this debatable piece, but I take no responsibility for the introductory image of synchronised osteopathy.
Colin.