Clips from Manchester workshop 2019

NVN Singing Workshop / Teaching Demonstration at the University of Manchester, March 2019

This session was organised by the Trustee Board as part of their response to the request for audio-visual resources to support new NVN members, and in particular members who live overseas and are unable to attend the Annual Gathering or other NVN-related events in the UK. The session was advertised as a free workshop for anyone happy to be part of the film and interested in learning more about the natural voice approach. Participants included a handful of the university’s music students, members of several different choirs in Greater Manchester, and other members of the public who had attended a singing workshop at the same venue earlier in the year, some of whom brought a friend who had never been to a workshop before. This meant that those teaching the songs knew little in advance about the make-up and experience of the group they would be working with – a common situation for those of us who lead stand-alone workshops – and the singers themselves had never sung together before.

Considering that the choice of songs was not fixed in advance, the collection is serendipitous in including a combination that reflects different types of repertoire commonly found in natural voice choirs. Two songs were written by members of the NVN and have words in English; these are complemented by two traditional songs from other parts of the world (South Africa and New Zealand/Aotearoa). One song (‘Hoof and Horn’) takes the form of a round; two (‘Gotta Move On’ and ‘Te Aroha’) are built around a combination of parallel movement and SATB-style choral harmonies; and another (‘Somagwaza’) has parts that intersect and overlap, each using different text.

The NVN engaged Kieran Hanson, a Manchester-based visual anthropologist and filmmaker, to film the session and edit the videos. Kieran used two cameras. One was static, positioned behind the person teaching and used to capture the whole group. The second camera was placed to one side and was used to capture close-ups, focusing on the person teaching and following them as they moved around the space. The teacher was fitted with a lapel microphone linked to the second camera so that any explanations or instructions they gave could be clearly heard on the video. Beyond combining footage from the two cameras, editing was minimal: the viewer is therefore able to watch the session unfold in real time and follow the teaching of each song in its entirety.

Each teacher has provided a reflective commentary to go with the video. Why did they choose this song? What choices did they make with regard to how they taught it, and why? What worked well and what worked less well? What might they do differently next time?

The NVN is grateful to the teachers who contributed their time and material (on Mothers Day!) and to the Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester for use of the venue.

Roxane Smith leading vocal warm-up (14:30)


Faith Watson teaching ‘Gotta Move On/Slow Down’ (25:24)

This song was written by Faith.


Roxane Smith teaching ‘Te Aroha’ (25:58)

This is a traditional Maori song. Roxane’s pronunciation has been amended (thanks to Carol Shortis from New Zealand).  Phonetic pronunciation is: tair a-raw-hah, tair faka-paw-no, tair rrangi-marrr-i-air, ta-toe ta-toe.


Caroline Bithell teaching ‘Somagwaza’ (16:23)

This traditional Xhosa song comes from South Africa and can be found in Ysaye Barnwell’s Singing in the African American Tradition (volume 1) and Pete Seeger’s Choral Folk Songs from South Africa.


Margaret Biddle teaching ‘Hoof and Horn’ (15:47)

This setting of a traditional West Country blessing is by Nickomo and can be found in the NVN collection To Grace the Earth.