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Rebellion in Medieval Music workshop for voices and instruments, Beverley, Saturday 23 May 2015


Workshop participants in action

Belinda Sykes
The Guildhall, Register Square, Beverley
Saturday 23 May 2015, 10.00am - 3.00pm

On Saturday 23 May 2015, The Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival gave members of the public the opportunity to work with ground-breaking ensemble, Joglaresa, in an exploration of "rebellion in medieval music". Medieval music has been enjoying a resurgence of interest in recent decades, partly because it can be so creative. This workshop enabled 25 singers and instrumentalists to explore some of the genre's more improvisatory aspects under the sympathetic and enthusiastic guidance of Joglaresa's director, Belinda Sykes, and members of the ensemble.

Belinda led sessions that transformed the most minimal manuscript material into a performance practice accessible to audiences today, with workshops covering improvisation, simple performance style versus luxurious arrangements, instrumentation and orchestration (including working without authentic medieval instruments). All participants were encouraged to sing in choruses, with some also developing solos.

For classically trained musicians who were nervous of improvisation, but who wanted to try in a safe environment, Belinda's approach was very accessible:
  • "To leave behind the written note and play by ear was an excellent way of starting"
  • "Being creative within melodic and rhythmic modes, without worrying about functional harmony, was liberating"
  • "It has enabled me to understand how Joglaresa works from historical sources to make its music sounds as it does (i.e. living music; not dusty early music!)"
  • "I am not very experienced at improvising but I like trying. It can however sometimes be a bit frightening, especially in front of unknown people but the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly (Joglaresa members managed to create this feeling from the very beginning of the workshop) and it made me feel very comfortable"
Project leader Belinda Sykes' career ranges from singing solo in the Carnegie Hall and The Royal Albert Hall (with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), to Professor of Medieval Music at London's Trinity College of Music, to oboe soloist in Sir Harrison Birtwistle's setting of Bacchai for the National Theatre. She has delivered exciting children's and amateur adults' workshops for Spitalfields Festival, Cheltenham Festival, Brighton Festival of Early Music, Beverley Festival and many individual schools. She has taught at the Guildhall School of Music, Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Newcastle University, Exeter University and many others. Belinda enthusiastically teaches all ages and abilities.

"Belinda Sykes is an infectious communicator gifted with a flexible and powerful vocal technique," Early Music Today.

Joglaresa workshop information and application.doc