Find out what we’ve been up to in our Youth Music Blog!

5 November 2018
Written by Chris Singleton, Associate Artist: Creative Engagement

The last time I went to Wakefield Theatre Royal, I was greeted at the door to their new studio space by a caped stranger carrying a blood-covered knife. Following an assembled group of parents, carers and family members nervously into the room, we were warned to be ‘approaching our doom’ and that death was a certainty. Never a particularly inviting thought on a Wednesday afternoon.

As the opening chords of Thriller blasted out and a group of creepily-dressed young people started to sing, our minds were very quickly set at ease – even before the choir moved on to tackle Ghostbusters as their second piece! They performed dramatically, singing alongside professional musicians with whom they had spent the day developing musical theatre skills via a Halloween theme. I left feeling inspired and excited by the results a one-day session had accomplished with such a diverse group of young people.

Variety has been the core of our Youth Music project so far – we’ve seen ghosts and monsters in Wakefield, trainee sound engineers and vocalists in the booth at SORM in Bradford and budding young instrumentalists with Imagineer and Square Chapel in Halifax. It really has been a demonstration of the broad places young people’s creativity can take us, and the talents that can be discovered with enough development time. I have been blown away by the commitment and passion of the young people – writing lyrics between sessions, pushing themselves to learn new instruments and showing a love for music that is always energising.

My absolute highlight of the project came when I witnessed a member take to the vocal booth at SORM and sing a solo piece. His sister told me he was very anxious and rarely able to be as confident as she saw him that day – the project was certainly the first time he had sung solo in public. The fact that she was close to tears watching a video of him sing really showed me the value of Youth Music as a way not only to develop people’s inherent abilities, but to benefit them socially beyond the realms of performance.

The great thing is that this continues, with two more residencies in Wakefield in 2019 and several across the rest of West Yorkshire. We’re always open to more young attendees with a learning disability, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the next group cross paths with our musicians!

Chris Singleton is an Associate Artist at Mind the Gap coordinating our Youth Music outreach programmes. He is very much not a musician – he leaves that bit to the pros.

3 July 2018
Charlotte Jones Case Sudy

Charlotte Jones is a student on MTG Academy Performance Academy programme. She has a particular interest and aptitude for music, particularly singing. Through the Youth Music Foundation project, we have been able to offer Charlotte high quality music tuition within both group and 1-1 settings. This case study blog is in her own words (captured April 2018).

“I was lucky to get the opportunity to work one-to-one with Craig Lees, who teaches music at Mind the Gap, to work on my vocal skills. I sing at my church and I have been involved with the choir at Mind the Gap, but this was a chance to strengthen my singing skills and become more confident.

Craig really helped me to choose the songs I like and that suited my voice. I chose an Emile Sande song because I really love this song and it has a lot of emotion in it.

Each week me and Craig would work on my timing and pitch and making sure I had stage presence. Each week got easier and I felt more relaxed. Even though I only spent an hour with Craig each time, I felt I learnt a lot. Craig helped me put the emotion into the song and I learnt that is what makes a song sound and look better.

My confidence has really grown over the last few months. I love singing and do it a lot but singing on my own is scary and I was worried at first that I might not be good enough or rise to the challenge. I was anxious that at the end of the term I would perform in front of my friends and staff and that was a scary thought.

Everyone was really supportive, and I was really proud of myself. The feedback was great and really positive. I wanted to do it again! I did get a few things wrong but overall, I thought I did a great job. I know that practice will make me better.

Performing on my own has really helped my confidence in other areas of performance. I can get quite nervous before I perform anything, but this was a big step for me. I think about this now to help my nerves before I perform.

I hope this confidence will help me in the choir and feel I and be more of a leader.

Now I have more experience in timing, this will help me in all my music sessions.”

May 23 2018
Written by Jack Yarrow, Freelance Music Leader

Over the past few months, I have been working with a small group of students to explore how we can use technology to create music.

Students worked in small groups, and looked into how songs were built up, and how you can use samples to replace traditional instruments. Each group of students used the built in software and extensive sample library of the Apple Macs to layer different sounds and samples over each other to create entirely original pieces of music.

Once the students got a little more used to using the computer to produce their own music, they began to work individually on creating a new piece of music each week. The students used themes and emotions from the theatre & dance production of Survival Kit, such as Romance, Party and Alien Worlds to help influence their own music. We looked at what makes a song have a certain emotion to it, and how the speed, instrumentation and chord patterns all help to create a particular feeling within a song.

As well as using pre-existing sounds and samples to make their own songs, once the students skills had developed, we were able to look at how we can record our own sounds and use different effects to manipulate those sounds. Within the Alien Worlds portion of the project, students were encouraged to use microphones and record themselves reading a short story, of their own creation, about an alien world. Using effects such as delay, reverberation, pitch shifting and vocoding they were able to manipulate their own voices to sound robotic and other worldly.

For the final few weeks, students were given a little more free rein to choose their own style of music and try and create a piece that they felt fully in control of. Using the knowledge built up over the previous 2 terms, every single student was able to produce at least one fully original piece of music, and some were even able to produce two or three! Each student was able to develop their own style of music and produce some wonderful tracks ranging from Dubstep to House, Pop to Jazz and everything in between!

8 August 2017
Written by Craig Lees, Vocal Coach

Forming just ten weeks ago, the Mind the Gap Choir is an eclectic mix of talented singers and artists from across the company. During their first set of rehearsals together they have focused on blend, articulation and emotional interpretation. With the help of myself, the singers have also been developing their confidence and strength as solo singers, with each member of the group being given responsibility for key lines and phrases.

The group have also delivered two concerts; one in the prestigious Quarry Hill Theatre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and for family and friends at MTG Studios. Over the course of the term they have been woking on putting their own spin on three classic songs; Lean On Me by Bill Withers, Something Inside So Strong by Labi Saffire and I Believe I Can Fly by R.Kelly. These inspirational songs remind the group to stay true to themselves, to take comfort in our friends and our family, and to always reach for the highest of our ambitions”. These are the core values of the ‘Mind the Gap Choir”.

25 July 2017
Written by Billy Hickling, The Trash Bang Man

Over the last term, I have been working with the part-time music group, discovering that anyone can make music, using anything… and experiencing the joy of sharing music as a group. Focusing on positivity, inclusivity, community spirit and group activity, we have been harnessing the power of pulse; using Junk Percussion, singing – and ukuleles!

Having been a performer in STOMP since its conception in the early 1990s, part of my work is the promotion of group co-operation and collaboration, enhancing focus, dexterity, co-ordination, physical and mental stamina. Over the last 7 weeks, we have been hands on, elbows deep in the fundamental building blocks of music: pulse, rhythm, cyclical patterns, groupings, tempo, melody and the basics of musical notation. Most importantly, we’ve been working hard and having fun.

We showed some of the skills and songs we learned at the end of term Show. It was the first time we’ve performed in front of an audience. We loved it and went down a storm!

3 June 2017
Written by Matt Evens, Freelance Musician

During the May half term, I worked with Jez Colborne and the Mind the Gap Band on some new music ideas. Some ideas we worked on came from jamming sessions and others came from work we did in Summer 2016.

After only a few hours together we had created 4 new songs, which highlighted the bands skills though complicated rhythm changes, riffs and solos as well and some new vocal techniques and styles. We continued perfecting the new songs until we were happy with the material.

We were then joined by music producer and friend of the company Si McGrath to discuss the possibility of recording a CD to help promote the band. The recording process will deconstruct the songs as we record parts separately, which will be a new experience for members of the band except, of course, Jez. I can’t wait to hear the final songs, which will be recorded in the next couple of months.

14 April 2017

Jez Colborne and the Mind the Gap Band and fellow local learning disability band The Outsiders joined forces on 10 April for a day of jamming, experimenting and musical collaboration. Liz Leach, manager of The Outsiders shared a few thought with us from their day together:

“The two groups immediately formed a really positive collective and you could tell they were keen to work together – which we knew would be the case. For me the highlights included the immediate ability to share the stage and be supportive to one another. The openness to give feedback and share ideas to support one another to excel continue to grow in their musicianship.

“Although the group was big, people were really conscious of listening to one another and performing together, ending up in a wonderful blues jam session. Going forward I know The Outsiders are keen to continue to work on the blues piece. They were practicing this at the weekend and perhaps there is something there about creating a piece that enables space for each performer and brings a further level of musicianship, i.e. Dynamics, tempo, solos and developing a structure.

“I think it would be good to start the next session with a free for all, perhaps build some time in to learning from other musicians and having some things lined to watch or listen to that could broaden peoples understanding, exposure to new ideas and lead to some inspiration and take the next developments from there.”

We look forward to working with The Outsiders again… who knows, the two bands may even form a supergroup!!

4 April 2017
Written by Mike Auger, Associate Artist: Music

At the end of Term two the music students performed as part of Mind the Gap’s Scratch Night. They had been rehearsing a number of songs on the theme of weather and performed these to the rest of the year, as well as friends and family. The first songs was Fall Rain Fall Rain by Lady Smith Black Mambazo, who are an African, all male voice choir. We watched videos and found research on the choir to learn more about their history and the origins of their music. The song is a call for rain, and we envisaged the hot African savannah awaiting the much needed monsoon. Next we sang Singing in the Rain, taken from the musical starring Gene Kelly. This number was a lot of fun to perform and included a simple movement routine expressing the joy of walking and singing through the falling rain. The third song performed by the group was “I can see Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash. For this song we broke the number down into two parts, a call and response structure. A few of the girls repeated the last few words of each line in a higher key which gave the song an upbeat, soulful feel. Finally the group ended on “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. This began with a funky jazz bass riff played by one of the students on the Keyboard, soon joined by another on the saxophone. It finished with a triumphant punch in the air to which the students received a standing ovation!

The students played an instrumental role in the music design of the performance and gave suggestions for the soundscape played over the top. This included the sound of falling rain, thunder and birds song. The Sharing also followed a lose story, starting with the calling for rain, then the showers fell, flowed by the return of the sunshine – bringing people together.

19 January 2017
Written by Mike Auger, Associate Artist: Music

Over the course of term one, Mind the Gap’s part time music students worked on a Song Writing project. They began with discussions around song themes, asking, “What things are we passionate about, and what themes could we write about?” We then researched song writers from around the world to find out more about where some of the most famous songs originated. We looked at political songs such as Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the wind and discussed it’s many meanings.

The students split into groups of two and three and worked each week on the lyrics, the tune and the compositions of their songs. There was a real range of themes from love and heartbreak, to mental health and social revolution! We worked through basic song structure, learning about verse, chorus and the bridge. Many of the students play instruments so many of the songs were accompanied by keyboard, guitar and beat boxing. One group designed the backing music to their song on their iPad and played this through the PA system while singing along with microphones. One student listed all the nicknames he had for his fellow students and them compiled them into a song with a catchy chorus which the group could all join in with.