In her youth, Rosie was a state champion trumpet player. Rosie has a BA in Sociology, is a published author, researcher, programmer & policy advocate whose submissions have been referenced in Parliamentary Reports. After a very long absence from music Rosie returned to music during the pandemic & is now a composer & musician. Email: rosie@musicalescapism.com

40 Solo
26 Duet
14 Quartet
13 Jazz Band
12 Trio
10 Orchestra
8 Brass Band
5 Concert Band
5 Quintet
4 Sextet
2 Choir


Ice Breakers for Engaging Your Audience

Ways to engage & include your audience - make them part of your show!

Over the past month, I've written a multitude of scores for ensembles for performance in varying contexts from private workshopping, to public performances.

These scores were inspired a wave of requests that came in from members of the Amateur Chamber Music Society, after I offered to compose free for anyone who wanted to experiment with commissioning a living composer.

If you just want to listen instead of viewing the scores, a lot of these pieces have been released onto Spotify & YouTube across two albums:

Reverie

String/Woodwind

Brassilicious

Brass Band

Song of the Whales Intermediate Trio Score

Cello, Double Bass

Fairy Bower Frolic Challenging Trio Score

Clarinet, Viola, Piano

Reverie Intermediate Quartet Score

Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass

Bin Chicken Banter Intermediate Sextet Score

Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon

Dancing in the Light Quintet Score

Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn

Antarctica Challenging Duet Score

Oboe, Bassoon

Antarctica Challenging Trio Score

Flute, Cello, Piano

Antarctica Challenging Trio Score

Flute, Cello, Acoustic Guitar

Gentle Thoughts Easy Duet Score

Viola, Piano

Joie De Vivre Challenging Duet Score

Violin, Piano

The ACMS was founded in 1984 for the benefit of amateur musicians and in 2011 Rachel Valler OAM become the patron. The ACMS has accumulated a large library of printed scores for the use on their playing days and concerts.

Over the last month, I provided scores for ACMS members to use with their ensembles including two duets (violin/piano & oboe/basson), trios (clarinet/viola/piano, flute/cello/guitar, flute/cello/piano & cello/double bass) and woodwind quintet and sextet.

These scores were written for both the instrumental mix of each ensemble and with each part intended for the ability of individual players and which ranged from advanced intermediate to professional.

Matching musicians with scores containing the right parts for each instrument and the ability level of each player is one of the challenges musicians face and one the ACMS library has attempted to address over the decades.

Even with the extensive score library and online digitised scores providing free out-of-copyright works, it can still be a problem getting all the variables to line up and find music suitable for your occasion, particularly if you want to try something new.

As a composer, I also face the same problem in that there is no point writing for a mix of instruments and abilities that does not exist or will never sit down together in the same place to play. Because of this, writing for musicians in the abstract is a far less rewarding experience than writing for musicians who are engaged and willing to give something a go.

But the benefits of writing for individuals was far more than solving logistical problems. Writing with specific people and their preferences in mind meant I discovered both a capaicity and the joy of writing jaunty music.

Coming from a marginalised background had convinced me that I should only write sad, fierce or relaxing music. Thinking about what other people might like served as a catalyst to move me beyond those self-imposed boundaries and gave me an excuse to create playful tunes about the life's happier experiences.

After what we have all just been through, it is a good time to enjoy things when we get the opportunity. I don't think you can put a price on finding out that you are not just a sad person but also someone who can share in life's joys. The experience helped me understand myself better both as an emerging composer and an individual.

I knew almost immediately that writing for amateur musicians is incredibly important to me, not as a stepping stone to writing for high profile (or paid) musicians but as an end in and of itself. It is in the doing of music, the sharing of the love musicians have for that process that is what I have missed all these years.

By contrast, having your music played by someone who is paid to do so without comment or critique feels quite different and can't really be compared with collaborating on an equal basis with regular people and having my music influenced in ways that free me from my own self-imposed creative limitations.

What I find so special about such a process is that my music is being shaped by these people in directions that it simply would not going if it was solely dependent on my own preferences, and it is being shaped in ways that are unique to the people I am writing it for. To me that is a priceless relationship to have.

The process felt so comfortable that within days, the goals I'd assumed to be markers of what it meant to be a 'successful' composer suddenly shifted. I realised I was not just writing music, I was creating an experience for other people and I put a lot of thought into what would make that a worthwhile experience for those individuals (and their potential audiences). This brings me to the topic of this blog post- making the audience part of the performance instead of passive listeners.

While I was exploring a new-found enjoyment of writing jaunty tunes I realised the role played by allowing ourselves to look through the eyes of the young, of letting go of the inhibitions keeping us bound up within ourselves.

I realised that community ensembles such as the brass bands I grew up in often play to the general public, with a wide cross-section of ages and that this creates a need to reach all members of the family, including the children- something The Wiggles have mastered on a global scale!

As my inner child (or mother) came out of her box, I realised there is a chance to provide opportunities for audiences, where appropriate and willing, to become part of the show instead of passive listeners. Below are two examples of pieces I think are open to this opportunity.

The first is 'A Giraffe Followed Me Home'. This piece is about Jasper the Giraffe. I found Jasper when I went looking for artwork for a brass duet and he so inspired me, I wrote a poem to tell his story.

A Giraffe Followed Me Home is a fun but challenging brass duet suggestive of the kinds of rambunctious mischief Jasper might get up to as he follows his new friend home from the zoo. You can even invite your followers to create their verse about his next adventure (or write one yourself) to bring along to your next event to share with the band (and audience).

People can download (5mb zip file) or link to this poster from their web pages to encourage families to come to your next family friendly gig. You could also encourage them to draw their own pictures of Jasper to bring along to show the band before the playing starts or to upload to your social media to share with your followers.

Including people in what you do, both in real life and online (with permission) can go a long way toward creating community and introducing the next generation to the joys of community music.

The folder includes posters with different designs & colours. People can also make their own resources using this fantastic image from Pixabay.

Antarctica (ensemble version) is another piece where it occurred to me that an audience can come in handy, should they be so inclined, to assist with a performance. There are currently 4 scores for Antarctica: the oboe/bassoon duet which the piece was originally concieved for, an ensemble version and two trios, one for flute/guitar/cello and flute/piano/cello.

Antarctica is an oboe/bassoon duet I originally wrote for a very capable mother/daughter duo. I wrote a few pieces for this instrumental combo before I decided I'd hit the mark. Interestingly, 'A Giraffe Followed Me Home' was originally intended for this duo, but once I heard it played by brass instruments I realised I preferred it on brass.

That preference bothered me because I wanted what I wrote for the players and instruments to sound best on those instruments, not just okay. I wanted it to sound at its best played on the instruments it was originally intended for.

This new standard was paying dividends in the quality of music I was turning out to those who had commissioned scores and I didn't want to compromise it because I hadn't immediately hit the nail on the head.

I ended up writing four pieces and Antartica was the last of those. Once written, I realised Antarctica would form a good basis for expanded instrumentation and wrote the chamber ensemble version.

By this time I was beginning to feel the pressure (driven by my own enthusiasm) of composing non-stop as well as all the other tasks that publishing music requires (production, distribution, web site maintenance, social media).

I started thinking about combining the different groups asking me to write for them to form larger ensembles and kill two birds with one stone?

With the Amateur Chamber Music Society's annual music camp finally going ahead at the end of November after years of delay due to the pandemic, I had been asked to write something for a cellist planning to play in two trios, one with piano and one with guitar.

I had decided to use guitar in the chamber orchestra version of Antarctica as it combined very nicely with the soft sounds of the woodwinds. Piano, on the other hand, provided the dramatic and forceful voice dancing around in the upper octaves and reaching down below.

I realised I could split the orchestra version and allow the guitar to cover the piano part so I was able to fashion two trio versions which both sound very nice.

I began experimenting with the orchestral version, trying out atmospheric sounds I had not previously used after I realised the Spitfire Labs virtual instruments had a selection of whale and water sounds.

It was when I then went back to thinking about versions that could be (more) easily pulled off in real performances that it occurred to me that audiences could actually make their own wave and water sounds using body percussion, perhaps even conducted by a volunteer and the performance would then take on an improvised element contributed by the listeners.

This is intended as a fun way for the audience to engage actively with the performance instead of sitting silent and still. The audience doesn't have to work too hard but might be assisted with examples of wave or whale sounds or volunteer examples before the piece gets underway.

Obviously something like this takes a bit of thinking through but given all the audience has to do is make shooshing noises, (use hand percussion to be Covid-safe) it is a very inclusive way for become part of what would otherwise be a passive musical experience.

If it's an advertised public performance that is for families/all ages you can encourage people to bring home made shakers for the rain sound- something kids can make at home and get to play with the band! The ideas are really endless once you let them in and I believe that they provide a more inclusive way of doing classical music than currently exists where you need the concentration span and bladder of steel to get through a concert.

Now I'm not saying there isn't a place for serious concerts and quiet audiences, I'm just saying that there are also opportunities for building a rapport with the public we are trying to engage with our music (both online & off) and if the music itself and the environment allows for it, then I think this approach can break the ice and help audiences and musicians appreciate one another on a new level.

Years of pandemic has left us all hungry for inclusion and engagement with one another, why let the opportunity that provides go to waste?

21st Jul 2022

Free Sheet Music Giveaway

I'm releasing some of my scores free to download.

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