The participants were of mixed age and background, ranging from 16 years old to 70 years old, and with varying amounts of musical experience. Instrumentation included voice, piano, guitar, bass, electronic drumset, recorder, clarinet, and saxophone. My setup included tabla (of course!), darbouka, a couple of cymbals, and a milltone drum.
Each week, we would begin with a short presentation on a musical style or compositional technique. Topics included melody, harmony, orchestration, register/dynamics/density, improvisation, composition, theme-and-variation, Indian music (of course!), etc. Then, we would break off into our three groups, led by Tim (guitar and voice), Jean-Marc (winds), and myself (percussion). My group, though loosely labelled the percussion group, actually included African percussion, electronic drumset, slam poetry / vocal sound effects, piano, and my setup that I mentioned earlier.
Over the course of seven workshops, we worked on creating our symphony for a performance at the Maison de la culture Marie Ugay on April 15. The final structure was:
I - Group improvisation, directed by Tim
II - Guitar / voice group soli
III - Wind group soli
IV - Percussion group soli
V - Group "comprovisation", composed/directed by Tim
It was fun to see everyone push their musical boundaries far past their pre-conceived notions of music and music-making. The concert was well attended, and enthusiastically received. We are currently planning a second edition of the workshop, which should begin sometime in mid-June! If you are a resident of the Sud-Ouest borough of Montreal and would like to participate in the second edition of the Symphone du Sud-Ouest, please contact the Centre Culturel Georges-Vanier.