By Aidan Sheehan, Music Facilitator
From the group’s creation in mid-September, the learners have enjoyed exploring various sounds, creating rhythms, singing snippets of songs in Welsh and English and trying out some traditional folk tunes on various instruments. Initially, “trying things out” without restrictions is very important, because it helps the learners to grow in both confidence and ability. Everyone can and should find their own way through actively experimenting with the music. Of course taking elements and helpful hints from a tutor is also important, but first of all barriers need to come down. When people get to grips with the instrument in hand without having to follow any rules, real tunes can be learnt slowly in stages. The learner’s own personal approach to their performances and the “feeling” they put into their playing is then acquired by regular practice. If what the learner hears sounds good, and people are complimenting them on their playing, then practice is not the dreaded ‘homework’, it’s a positive thing instead.
Besides practicing on the instruments and learning to play, we have enjoyed conversations ranging from simply sharing past experiences or perhaps discussing historical and social elements directly related to our music. We have looked at, held, heard and played unusual instruments (trumpet harmonicas, Da Moi, Jaw Harps amongst others). All these elements of the sessions, from finding out about the history of the tunes and instruments, where and how it links in to our community and finding out about each other, only increases our understanding and awareness of the music which we play. It therefore enriches our learning experience and can be a life-changing experience in a most positive way.
We have used percussion, ranging from handclaps and clicking our fingers, to playing the spoons and using various frame drums including Bodhrans and tippers. We have played real tunes on diatonic harmonicas; tin whistles are next on the list. Singing and twin guitar accompaniment has added to our sound.
Most of the learners could not play before and now they can play well enough, getting better by the day. Everyone has a smile on their face. Nothing will stop us now!