One of my greatest joys is leading singing workshops. By working with groups throughout Europe and North America, I have learned that:
In my teaching, I draw on songs from the 'American Vernacular' (gospel, bluegrass, Appalachian and shape note songs), my own compositions, and Zimbabwean makwayera songs. I love these songs for their compelling rhythms, evocative harmonies, and themes that speak to everyday life. They are songs that come from participatory, community-based traditions: songs that draw people together around the world.
I have led workshops in many places around the worldóBulgaria, Canada, England, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Zimbabwe, and throughout the U.S. I am comfortable with a wide range of groups, from established choirs to open workshops to master classes at the university level.
Since 2007, I have been creating singing experiences for adults through the vehicle of Turtle Dove, an organization that brings people together to create community and a sense of purpose through song. We offer world harmony singing camps and workshops for adults that draw on music from a variety of traditionsóincluding Appalachian, African, Eastern European and Shape Note music. We have held camps in Ireland, Scotland, Bulgaria, and New England. Please visit our website (www.TurtleDoveHarmony.org) to find out more.
Makwayera songs from Zimbabwe
In the spring of 2011, I spent three weeks in Zimbabwe working with local choirs to record and document traditional choral repertoire. I worked with groups at Seke Teachers College in Chitungwiza and the College of Music in Harare in addition to informal field recordings in Mhondoro and Chikore, collecting a wealth of traditional songs. Makwayera is a syncretic tradition, blending traditional influences with the western harmony brought by the missionaries. The songs range from church choruses to songs for ceremonies to folk songs about a bachelor's hapless attempts to impress the girls. Some have mbira accompaniment, some are acapella: all are a joy to sing. While I usually include at least some of these songs in my workshop, I can also present a program focused exclusively on this vibrant tradition. In January of 2012, I published Ngatiimbe, a book of transcriptions of this music accompanied by a CD of field recordings.
The harmonies were wonderful, the pace ideal and the choice of songs inspired.
You are the BEST at holding the space. . .
A true teacher shares the love they have for their subject and leads the students beyond where they know themselves to be. You worked from that loving place and we were deepened. The material was perfect.
Your personal qualities of being open, uncompetitive, caring and genuine created the environment that allowed many of the other wonderful moments to happen. That is very unusual—to be a leader who, by example, encourages everyone to connect, not compete, through the music.
Witty, charismatic, and unflagging in his enthusiasm. We were challenged and we learnt along the way, but most of all it was inspirational. We came out feeling great! — Workshop participants
I really enjoyed the workshop and was close to crying sometimes, I was so happy to be singing again. You have the gift of creating a beautiful atmosphere and bringing out everyone's talents. Long may you run. — Andrew B.
I really enjoyed the day and a big part of the enjoyment came about as a result of your approach, your delivery and your genuine warmness as a human being. — Christy K.
What a gift—this music of the world that brings us all together from our different cultures and practices giving us all the same joyful, creative purpose. Isn't it lovely to know we can come from far and afield and know each other somehow? How we are all part of this great human family humbly struggling to know ourselves and live in joy and love in the world. These camps are about so much more than singing. . . — Kathy L.
© Brendan Taaffe, 2011, 2012, 2014. All Rights Reserved.