Yesterday with the youth band, I decided that we would pick up some new songs to add to our repertoire rather than just the same old tired and over done ones. I had printed off chord charts for four of them and they ended up picking one they had heard sung live at the Winter X-treme conference by Leeland and Brandon Heath called “Follow You.” Right now we have a basic idea of how we can pull off the song with just keyboard, electric bass, congas, and three female voices. They commented how the version they heard has a trade off between voices and a slightly polyphonic drift to it, well they didn’t exactly know how to say it but that’s what they meant with their mixture of slang and singing to me. I’m really impressed that they are finally starting to listen in detail and pick out things like that; the group is definitely starting to mature musically slowly but surely. We will play the song for the first time this week with just the basic sketch that we have of it now, then each time we play it we will add something new to it so the song can develop over time.
I also had the group do some improvisation together to help them work on their ears, knowing their instruments and ultimately to be able to create a song together in the long run. I started with a wonderful little melody on the keys that had come to me just the day before and used a simple set of chords with their embellishments: D, G, D, B, B/A, G, D, etc. As I kept looping this, eventually the congas came in right on track. The bassist, who never practices, seemed very lost so I had to shout out the chord changes until he had them memorized and could listen for them on his own. Afterwards, the vocalists hummed melodies alongside the instruments, generally landing on the same notes and avoiding harmony, mostly singing the same melody I had been playing with little variation. We will definitely need to work on the melodic imagination and harmonic independence of the vocalists. For a first try, especially with so many kids in the band who don’t read music or really understand it, I think it was a brilliant beginning.
Today I’m working on my part of the ensemble piece I will be playing at work at the kids’ piano concert, “I’ve Got Rhythm.” I just started it today and set it to the metronome; it’s fairly sight-readable for me which surprised me just a bit. I’ve got the main melody most of the piece which is pretty exciting, and there are some nicely phrased intricacies in my part right after the first key change [from Db to C; later it shifts to F, all Major] that pique my interest. Unfortunately, it’s one of those does-not-really-have-a-tempo-marking-at-the-beginning kind of pieces so I’ve started it at a slow speed and am going to work it all the way up the metronome so that I can be prepared for whatever speed our group ultimately decides upon. I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to practice it once or twice next week, just because it’s going to be such a fun piece. I’d almost forgotten how enjoyable working towards an actual performance could be.