Stoke Sings online 2021

13th March 2021 was the date we had booked the Victoria Hall in Stoke on Trent for the Stoke Sings Festival. We did not feel able to let the date pass without doing some singing together, so we did it online!

The day started at 11am with a physical warm up with Kate Barfield to get us ready to sing.

Kate Barfield conducting

People moved into different zoom rooms for their chosen workshop – Magic of the Musicals, Sing Out of Lockdown! , Choir In A Box sing the Wellerman, How to give emotional song performances, Shaping your Sound, Rediscovering YOUR voice, “Pandemic Hallelujah”, Polyphonic Songs, Hits from the 80s. Scroll down to see details of the 9 workshops.

Professor Kathy Bullock from Kentucky in the United States gave an incredible Keynote workshop on Gospel after a lunch break. Kathy is a specialist in performing and conducting African American Sacred Music throughout the United States, Europe and Africa. She talked about the role gospel songs play in civil rights and present day social movements and shared songs of hope and joy during these challenging times.

Kathy Bullock

Steve Mitchell showed the Choir in A Box virtual choir video of The Wellerman made by him and his participants from the morning workshop.

screenshot of the video of the Choir In A Box singing Wellerman

The premiere of Virtual Festival Chorus with a specially written song from Shan Jones and Martin Jones called “Singing Again”, a light-hearted topical piece about living through lockdown and looking forward to being able to sing together and be together again. People were invited to send in a video of themselves singing. and find out more about the song on the Stoke Sings Virtual Choir page.

Screenshot from the Stoke Sings Festival Virtual Choir video of Singing Again

The day closed with a Big Sing workshop.

We asked for a minimum donation of £3 for the event, pay-as-you-feel. All surplus money after we covered our costs, goes towards future Stoke Sings community singing activities. Our aim is to reach people who experience barriers to singing, and people who will benefit the most from the social, health and wellbeing benefits of singing together.

Workshop choices

The Magic of the Musicals:  Favourites, Forgotten Classics, Modern Masterpieces, with Dan Hollingshurst. A whistle-stop singing tour of as wide a variety of songs from West End and Broadway stage musicals as we can fit into 40 minutes!  To quote a classic Stephen Sondheim song, there will be “Something Familiar, Something Peculiar, Something for Everyone!”  Enjoy your front-row (Zoom!) seat as we sing a variety of show-stoppers you’ll know and love, golden oldies from Broadway’s bygone days and ballads from more recent musical theatre shows.

Sing Out of Lockdown! with Kate Barfield and Greg Stephens. Kate and Greg will share some songs relevant to the last year of lockdowns including songs that have been created during the pandemic.

Choir In A Box: The Wellerman with Steve Mitchell. First of all we will learn the song, parts and verses from The Wellerman – a current internet sensation. Secondly we will capture from zoom a film of everyone singing the song. This will be a muddle due to lag, bad signal and digital delay BUT it’s a shortcut! Thirdly you will all record your own voices on a separate device eg phone at home. You will need to wear headphones connected to your zoom device so you only record your voice and none of the backing! Next we will choose 6 soloists for the verses who will send in a video singing a verse, with headphones on a separate device. Finally Steve will scoot off and combine the voices, zoom capture and solo videos into a one-off virtual video.

How to give emotional song performances that your audience will really believe with Kate Cubley leader of MicWire. In this interactive workshop we will explore the idea of primal sounds used in singing. We will learn how they could help get more truthful and emotional performances. We will begin with a brief evolution of singing, explain why song is seen by most humans as such an emotional form of expression, before trying out six convincing primal sounds. When we have tried these sounds in isolation, we will test them out in songs from different genres, explore how they might be used to create emotional, believable performances and how you can make appropriate vocal choices when you are singing across genres (especially useful for those of you singing lots of different music with many different choirs!).

Shaping your Sound workshop with Grace Allwood. A practical look at vowel shapes with a focus on the application for blended sound in choral singing.

Rediscovering YOUR voice with Ashley Mellor. Lockdown and the last 12 months has had an immeasurable impact on what we all love doing most; singing. Whether on your own in the shower, or in the Victoria Hall with 400 other voices, we all love a fabulous sing. BUT, has lockdown knocked your confidence? Do you feel out of practise? Do you feel your voice has changed? Join Ashley for a workshop about rebuilding a positive relationship with your voice, so you can once again ‘belt’ out a tune in the car or one day soon with an amazing group of people around you. Let Ashley help you rediscover your voice, and build your confidence again from the safety of your own home, before we head for the ‘new-normal’.

Pandemic Hallelujah” a song for now with Caroline Walton. Caroline has written this version of the famous song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen in 4 part harmony, over the last few months. She took half a song to Loud Mouth Women choir and asked for contributions to expand it. They pooled ideas and this led to 2 more verses. The chorus also evolved from one word to 2 words with asides which change each time.

Polyphonic Songs with Paul Rogerson. In this workshop you’ll be singing a traditional song from Ukraine. A song that, serendipitously, celebrates the profound act of going down to the shops to meet someone outside of your bubble! Paul says “It made me cry with joy when I first heard it. I hope we can feel that together!” This workshop is for anyone of any gender​.

Hits from the 80s with Martin Jones, composer of Singing Again our Stoke Sings Virtual Choir song this year. Expect uplifting hits from Erasure, the Communards and the Buggles in a life affirming session of upbeat music. Sing along with familiar melodies or learn some optional harmony parts, the choice is yours. Mullet wigs and shoulder pads welcome!

Credits for official Stoke Sings photographs on this website go to Tony Jones, Kim Watson, Lydia Hopwood and Jaro Ralph.

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