Educational Workshops

Mopomoso April tour workshops

To coincide with with The Mopomoso tour John Russell offered workshops in free improvisation. Find out more on the Sound and Music website.

John Russell has given workshops in free improvisation for Bedfordshire Education, The Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Offene Ohren Munich, Ivan Illich School Bologna, Centro Cultural Sao Paulo and as offshoots to his own Quaqua projects. He has also taught Jazz guitar at the City Literary Institute and worked in youth and adult education schemes for the London Borough´s of Camden, Harringey, Westminster and Wandsworth.

Workshops in free improvisation are generally open for players of all abilities and any instrumentation and can be tailored to suit the circumstance. In general subjects include listening, the nature of sound, ways to interact with other players, the nature of free improvisation, getting the most from your instrument and optimising your capabilities. A number of participatory exercises and structures evolved from working with other musicians are used in a practical way to highlight different aspects in the music and the overall structure is built towards a live performance programme.

Educational Workshops

Free improvisation for saxophonists with Rachel Musson

Rachel ran a series of regular monthly workshops for saxophonists at the Vortex. The workshops involved playing in groups of different sizes, exploring different elements that might be utilized when improvising and promoting listening and interacting skills. Different prompts were used to spark ideas for improvising, and background examples of other musicians working in this field were listened to. The workshop provided a forum for people to discuss their experiences of playing in this way, and created a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Educational Workshops

John Russell improvisation workshop

Some pictures taken by Phillippa Howarth from our November 2010 workshop which took place in the afternoon before our regular evening concert:

Educational Workshops

Richard Barrett / John Russell improvisation workshop

This took place on November 16th at The Vortex with the first part led by John Russell and the second by Richard Barrett. It was attended by 17 musicians playing a range of instruments and apart from introducing different ways to think about sound and group playing in free improvisation, gave an opportunity for the participants to team up with like minded players.

From the initial instruction, ‘Let´s move some air!’ the free piece that followed then led to a break down of some of the elements involved in playing including dynamics and texture, then moved quickly through a general explanation and playing strategies adopted by John Stevens and Günter Christmann with participants playing ‘Search and Reflect’ and ‘Four Short Pieces’.

After the break Richard took some of these elements and developed them further, dividing the whole ensemble into sections and showing different ways in which they could respond to each other and also worked with ways in which dynamics can have an effect on group material.

About half of the group came to the evenings concert and all expressed an interest in coming again. Here are some of the emails we received after the workshop.

“I just wanted to contact to say how much I enjoyed the improv workshop on Sunday. I got a lot out of it and would be interested in attending future sessions if they occur.” – Pete

“Just a quick note to let you know how valuable I found Sundays workshop.

“In my opinion workshops within this music should be taking place all the time around this country, there are so many musicians who have invaluable knowledge and experience and the non-hierarchical, completely democratic approach taken through this process promotes not only artistic communication but realistic social change.

“On a personal level, because of this workshop, I met a drummer who was interested in playing some guitar & percussion duo music, something I have wanted to do for a while now.

“Thank you to everyone who ‘took the time out’ to make this day possible.” – David

“This is just a quick email to say how much I enjoyed the Mopomoso free improvisation workshop on Sunday. It got me thinking a lot about different aspects of music and interaction, and I would definitely attend again.” – John

“The workshop at the Vortex was great. I have been looking for opportunities to play Jazz with others for a while and I haven´t found much until now. The style of improvising was also really new and interesting to me.

“It would be great if there were more workshops, like this and in other styles, at the Vortex and I would definitely come along.” – Charlie

The workshop leaders were:

Richard Barrett has led workshops in improvisation in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Australia and is currently Professor of Music at Brunel University where improvised music forms a central aspect of his teaching work.

John Russell has given workshops in improvisation for Bedfordshire Education, The Cheltenham Jazz Festival and as offshoots to his own Quaqua projects. He has also taught Jazz guitar at the City Literary Institute and worked in youth and adult education schemes for the London Borough´s of Camden, Harringey, Westminster and Wandsworth.

Educational Workshops

Phil Minton´s Feral Choir

On June the 21st vocalist extraordinaire Phil Minton gave an afternoon workshop for skilled and unskilled singers who then played the opening set in the evening concert. A video from part of this concert can be seen at YouTube.