Squawkestra’s Winter Season

Last rehearsal was the launch of our Winter Season, with the exciting experience of our first play-through of a new work written for us by composer in residence, K Travers Eira.  Travers, a composer, performer and Squawkestra viola player, has composed “Alun key supplied”, a modular piece for variable orchestra.   

In a truely collaborative experience, first we heard from Travers about the inspiration and approach for the piece.  Then as we played and explored, we asked about timings, markings and intent.  Travers heard from us including possible bassoon fingerings, preferred clef for the cello, suggestions for additional rehearsal marks and requests to highlight favourite passages.  

Travers will use the feedback collected in rehearsal along with suggestions and ideas submitted online to further refine the piece for next rehearsal.  We look forward to playing the results of this work!

A Performance Like No Other

Thursday 28th May 2020 was to be our first concert for the year.  The repertoire had been selected, the venue booked and we began working hard rehearsing our pieces.  And then COVID-19 hit, and like everything else in our lives, Squawkestra had to stand down, stop rehearsals and hunker down in our individual “physically distant” spaces.

But guided by Kat, our courageous musical director and conductor, Squawkestra moved online, with rehearsal videos and zoom rehearsals allowing us to connect and play again together from our studies, studios and spare rooms.

So it was with this spirit of experimentation and to “Embrace the Glitch and Love the Lag”, we staged our first zoom performance on the night of our scheduled concert – Thursday 28th May.  Dressed in our concert blacks we played some of the original concert repertoire, Beethoven’s 1st Movement of Pastoral Symphony and Joachim Johow’s Russian Horses, using the “Follow The Leader” technique we had refined in previous zoom rehearsals.  We then had a number of wonderful solo performances, enabling us to share the progress of individuals’ practice and musical discoveries.

It wasn’t the concert we had envisaged at the beginning of the year, rather it was a Squawkestra performance for this strange, pandemic time.

Hints for Zoom Rehearsals

Our first Zoom Rehearsal was such a success, we are having another at the regular Squawkestra rehearsal date & time – 7pm April 30.

For those who haven’t used zoom before

  • it is easiest if you download it to your computer prior to the meeting, then you can just click on the link that will be provided in the regular Squawkestra update email
  • download from https://zoom.us/support/download
  • there is a microphone and a camera setting once you are connected. You can mute and unmute the microphone and turn the video on or off from your screen.  Remember to turn your computer camera on so Kat can see you and your instrument
  • the default screen layout is “Speaker” view where the person speaking is displayed in a large window.  This is good when Kat is conducting.  The “Gallery View” (aka the “Brady Bunch” layout) shows all participants, and is good for general chatting.  Click on the buttons on the top right of your screen to toggle between the two
  • open the zoom “chat” window (click on voice bubble button at bottom of screen) so that you can communicate via typed text with other participants even when your microphone is muted

Special settings for music sessions

  • as zoom is optimised for voice, it doesn’t always get it right for music
  • the simplest change is in the settings >> Audio section and to Uncheck “Automatically adjust microphone volume”
  • there are more details in this terrific resource Best Zoom Meeting settings for Remote Music Lessons

During rehearsal

  • bring your instrument, music stand, pencil and music
  • position yourself and your device so that Kat can see both your instrument and face
  • make sure you have tuned before rehearsal starts.  There are many free tuner apps available that checks and shows visually if and when you’re in tune  
  • some members found they had the best sound by using headphones; wear it one ear on so you can hear the session and one ear off so you can hear your instrument

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Zoom Rehearsal

Last week we had our first “Zoom Rehearsal” of the Virtual Squawkestra. After some initial technical issues (and apologies to members who did not get the updated link in time) we were set up in our music rooms, studies and spare rooms with instruments at the ready.  It required careful arrangement of device, music stand, instrument and self so that we could read our music, see and be seen by Kat.

It wasn’t the same as a “normal” Squawkestra rehearsal – and it was never going to be due to the limitations of video conferencing.  So we experimented with different approaches; using Kat’s rehearsal videos, listening to other YouTube recordings of our pieces and Kat conducting “live”.

Generally we played together, with all but one player muted, hearing our own instrument and listening to another.  It was great how we overcame initial shyness to play for the group, giving all the opportunity to hear each section’s part and learn how they fit with our own.  Motivated to pick up sometimes neglected instruments, we are learning new ways to listen and practise our performance pieces.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Squawkestra rehearsal without a tea break, so we also had time for a shared tea, coffee (or something stronger?!) and a chat.

It was wonderful to connect again – playing individually, yet playing together.

Our next “Zoom Rehearsal” will be at the regular Squawkestra rehearsal date & time – 7pm April 30. The zoom link will be sent in the regular Squawkestra update email, and we hope to have more members join us.

Zoom Rehearsal

Virtual Rehearsals

Kat, our Musical Director and Conductor, has created more virtual rehearsal videos, now grouped in one place on our new Virtual Rehearsal page.

Consider downloading the video first instead of streaming online to prevent buffering delays at unfortunate places!

Please add a comment to help us refine future videos.

Happy rehearsing!

In these COVID-19 times music matters more than ever, and Squawkestra have a concert date on the 28th May. Whilst we may not be able to guarantee a traditional concert then,  we are proceeding with our program and concert repertoire in new ways.

During our lockout and lockdown we want to continue to bring the music to you. Kat, our Musical Director and Conductor, and your committee has been busy with ideas to engage and inspire you and to encourage you and your instrument to play together.

Kat has made some practice videos in short excepts so that you can play along at rehearsal speed.

First, check out The Plan, where Kat introduces this new approach.  Then pull out your Pastoral Symphony music and be prepared to practise bars 1 to the end of 36, and then bars 37 thru to 53.  We intend to post further videos on a fortnightly basis, replacing face to face rehearsals.

After watching – and playing along – please comment on the page with your suggestions or questions so we can learn from each other and refine our virtual squawkestra techniques.

We are also looking outward beyond our members, recognising the particular hardships of the arts community. Working with local composers is something we would like to do, and we encourage all members of Squawkestra who compose or know of someone who could write for us to get in touch with Kat. Now is the time to dust off those half finished compositions.

We hope you will stay with us during this new phase as we seek to continue our music-making, Squawkestra-style.

As a result of the rapidly escalating health crisis with Covid-19 we have taken the decision to cancel rehearsals until it is safe to resume. We support social distancing in order to limit the spread of the virus in the community, and to assist our health workers and hospitals. This decision was confirmed for us with Darebin Council closing all senior citizens’ halls, making our rehearsal space unavailable.

We hope that Squawkestra members will continue to play, and hopefully there are some clever people amongst us who can devise ways of teaching or practising with our peers remotely or in small groups. We may be at a distance but let’s not be isolated.

We will advise on this website and the rehearsals events on our meetup page when it is once more possible for us to play together again.

First Rehearsal for 2020

It was wonderful to be playing as Squawkestra again! Returning members, some we hadn’t seen for a while, and new friends came together to make magnificent music together.

First up was a simple folk song designed to have us playing and listening for our group sound, rather than a group of individuals making sound. Then onto a piece to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and finally, some wizarding magic.

Upcoming rehearsals schedule are listed on the Members page and at the Squawkestra Meetup site.

2020 First Rehearsal

Make an Entrance

Our first rehearsal season is starting this week, where our focus will be on sectionals and  getting to know our sound in instrumental groups.

In the interest of trying something new, Squawkestra will be trying Principal Players positions in our first season of rehearsals. A Principal Player in big important world orchestras are players who are highly proficient performers, who often take the lead parts or solos, who are called upon to tune up the orchestra, lead sectional rehearsals and lead advice to the section on fingering and phrasing, or sometimes lead the orchestra during rehearsals. Being that Squawkestra is a big important orchestra of the world, we should give it a go too!

If you’re willing to lead a sectional rehearsal, assist orchestra members and the conductor as required, can commit the attending all rehearsals during the first concert season (Feb 6 – May 28) and can meet on Feb 13,  please complete the Principal Players – Expressions of Interest Form.  We expect these roles can be rotated through interested orchestra members in future concert seasons.

First rehearsal is tomorrow, Thursday 6th February, at 7pm, Northcote Senior Citizens Centre 18A Bent St Northcote.  See you there!

2020 Make an Entrance

Last night, instead of the sweet tones of Squawkestra rehearsing, the sound of pages shuffling and mutterings of “L, M, N, O ….. P” could be heard from Northcote Senior Citizens Centre.  Committee members and brave volunteers tackled the huge task of filing sheet music from members back into the library.  In addition to last year’s pieces retrieved from across the orchestra, we had random sheets from pieces played from many years ago.  All were sorted back into the work’s relevant section folder, then into the work’s hanging folder, to be catalogued and alphabetised for storage in the office cabinets.  A major task with music for dozens of works!  But  “many hands make light work” and thanks to everyone involved, each sheet found a home.

Next week, Thursday 6th February, is our first rehearsal for 2020, and we can’t wait to get back into music making with Squawkestra at 7pm, Northcote Senior Citizens Centre 18A Bent St Northcote.

2020 Music Sort 1