Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Finale

The last night of CoLab was a big event. There were multiple projects going on in Blackheath Halls in three different locations at once, between 7 and 11pm. We weren’t performing until 9.15, so it was really nice to get a chance to see what everyone else had been working on for the past week or two.

The night was running slightly late (due to the multiple stage changes), but once we got on we had a fair amount of audience. I was really pleased with our performance. I thought that we really gelled and worked with the acoustics that the room gave us.

Here is a video clip of part of the performance.

I was particularly pleased with the string improvisation section and thought we worked well together and managed to create some really interesting sounds and shapes. It was also interesting performing with our sound amplified. I couldn’t hear a difference from where I was sitting, but after talking to the audience and listening to recordings I can hear that it made a big difference to the performance and we were far more prominent in the mix.

Overall I thought we grew as a group and managed to put our own stamp on ‘Lifecycles’. It was really great being able to work with the composer Phil as it really put the music into context and gave us a much deeper understanding of the piece. I’ve really enjoyed this project and hope that I’ll get the chance to do something similar in the future!


Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day five

We didn’t rehearse at all in Trinity Laban today. Instead, we had an afternoon rehearsal in the Recital Room where we could get used to the new space and also get used to the amplification. When we arrived all of the string players had small microphones that we place next to our bridges. We had a monitor in front of us so that we could hear ourselves too.

As we started rehearsing we discovered that we couldn’t have the monitor on loud at all because otherwise the mics on our instruments would start to feed back. This resulted on the audience being able to hear us, but we still couldn’t really hear ourselves. Luckily we had got used to playing like this during the week so I don’t think it hindered us too much.

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Rehearsing for the final performance.

I was pleased with how the rehearsal went and both Phil and Nic said that we sounded good from the audience, so I’m excited for the performance tonight!

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day 4

Today’s rehearsal began with just the strings. We needed to work on the improvisation movement, and talk about how we are going to structure it.  We started by being given an order to come up with the ‘idea’ and then as each player voiced their idea we had to mimic them, and weren’t allowed to move onto the next player until everyone had taken up the idea. This felt too structured, so we then began to work in pairs to have more than one idea on the go at once. This worked far better an allowed us to create more complex textures, however this was still too structured and limited us to who we could share ideas with. We finally came up with  an arching structure that was completely free. Through eye contact we passed ideas and motifs around, but were also free to play our own thing if we wished to. Through using these techniques I feel that we have come up with an effective and exciting improvisatory movement and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens on the night of the performance.




Later, when the full ensemble arrived we worked on all of the movements in order. I think they are all starting to sound really tight, and we should put on a great performance tomorrow night! We also had our first chance to rehearse with the vocalist, which made those movements make far more sense!

I’m very excited for tomorrow night now!

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day 3

We started todays rehearsal by playing through one of the shorter interlude movements. I really enjoyed this as it gave us a nice warm up before moving on to rehearse all of the bigger movements from the piece.

Here is an excerpt of us rehearsing one of the trickier passages from the movement ‘Intoxicated Delirium’.

To get the rhythms tighter we looped the difficult sections, starting from the bottom. We’d loop the bassline and rhythm section a couple of times, then add the first melody and after getting that right we’d add the next. By working like this we made sure that we had solid foundations to build on, resulting in a neat performance.

We also slowed things down and made sure everything slotted well together and gradually sped them up until they were at the proper tempo. By doing this we could hear all of the parts clearly and I found it really helpful, particularly in the sections that felt like different parts were in different time signatures.

Tomorrow we are doing one of the few movements we haven’t covered yet. It’s an improvisation for the strings, so I’m interested to see what sort of things we get to do.

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day 2

Today was the second day of our CoLab project. We arrived and began rehearsals at 10 and used our time looking at the rest of the pieces that involved the whole band (as some of them are smaller group improvisations).


Here is a video of us rehearsing a movement called ‘Rememberance’. It starts off with some really eerie string glissandi with an improvised piano solo over the top, before the flute and clarinet join in with the strings.

One of my favourite movements that we played today is called ‘Intoxicated Delirium’. It’s all about how you think and feel when you are intoxicated. It begins with a cool Cuban style beat and then has a folky tune over the top. The folk tune is first in 18/8 and comes back later in the piece in 4/4. I love this movement because it’s very rhythmic and exciting. Some of the rhythms are pretty complicated though and took some time to get right. I think it’s almost there though!

In the afternoon we broke off into sectional rehearsals. We had a string sectional, led by Nic Pendelbury and went over the exposed and tricky bits. We started off by playing one of the sections where we were providing the harmony and worked on our tuning as a section. We then moved onto some of the more complicated rhythmic sections. With Nic keeping time we played the interlocking cross rhythms, slowly at first, gradually speeding them up until we could play them completely in time. We also clapped and sung our parts (when we were playing across each other) to ensure we 100% know where we were supposed to play.

I’m looking forward to putting all of the sectional work together tomorrow and beginning to get a sense of what the completed work will sound like.

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day one

Today was the first day of my Colab project. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am doing a project where we work towards performing ‘Lifecycles’ by Phil Meadows. The project is being led by him, and he is conducting at the moment, but eventually he hopes that some of the members of the ensemble will conduct the piece.

We all arrived for rehearsal this morning and after setting up we got straight into it. Over the course of the day we worked on three separate movements. They each have their own challenges, ranging from complicated cross rhythms, improvisatory passages and balance issues. After the work we put in today however, I think we’ll be able to pull it off by our performance on Friday.

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The biggest issue for me is that there are only single strings (one player on each part) and having to compete against one flute, two clarinets, one French Horn, one Trumpet, two Saxophones, one Piano, Upright Bass and a Drum Kit! Safe to say we’re having to work very hard to be heard! I think we’ll be amplified on the night so that will mean we can concentrate on being fully in the music, and not worrying about being heard.

When I first heard this piece I was completely drawn in and couldn’t wait to have a go at playing it. Here is an example of the sort of music we are rehearsing.

I’m really excited to play through some more of the tracks tomorrow and I’m looking forward to keep working with everyone in the group.

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016

Welcome to Colab 2016! This is my fourth year of Colab, and I’m excited to start my new project tomorrow. Once again, I’m doing something completely different! I’m taking part in a project where we are playing, developing and performing the work ‘Lifecycles’ by Phil Meadows. After listening to the recording of the piece on Spotify I was hooked and I’m so glad I get to take part in this project.

Last year I was part of a Ceilidh band, and got to play in the performance night at the end of the first week. I love this sort of music and it was great to devote a whole week to this. I wrote a post about it here.


Our Ceilidh band!

In my second year I took part in a string quartet and jazz ensemble crossover. This was an interesting project as we were given music to start with (that was created in a collaboration from a previous year) and we had to learn it by the performance date, but still put our own stamp on it. I enjoyed this project a lot and it was great to be able to work closely with jazz musicians, as I don’t get to do that often. I wrote a full account of this on my old tumbler blog here.


A string quartet rehearsal separate from the jazz musicians

In my first year I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard a bit about it, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the way everything in Trinity Laban stops for Colab. My project was called ‘Lost in Translation’ and it involved telling stories and conveying emotions through the medium of music. I enjoyed this project as I got to meet a lot of new people and experience a new way of using music. I wrote more about it here.


The final performance of my first year project


I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with my latest project, and I’ll be keeping a daily record of what we get up on this blog.