Welcome to Braunschweig, East Germany Honey!
Braunschweig aka Brunswick is a pretty little city in Lower Saxony in East Germany, full of 17th century architecture and 1980s shopping malls, brutalist realness and the ever so colourfully quirky Rizzi House by architect Konrad Kloster in honour of Artist James Rizzi. Back in October 2015 in a time before brexit, I had flown over to Braunschweig with the Mouthy Poets (Nottingham Based Poetry Collective) led by Deborah Stevenson who is a Poet/ Dancer/ Grime MC/ Teacher. The reason we were there in East Germany was to perform with the Loewenmaul Poets aka ‘Lion Mouth Poets’ at the beautiful Staatstheater Braunschweig as a Singer and a Poet and to partake in workshops whilst meeting other poets from across the pond.
Most people were very friendly and welcoming there but many of the local people did stare at the people of colour in our group, as if we were aliens or refugees which was both interesting, mildly amusing but did start to have a negative effect on us after a while. I stayed with a lovely lady called Helene who looked after me well and made me feel at home.
Vocal Workshop: Choral Skills
Inside the grand walls of the Staatstheater, I was asked to lead a Choral Vocal Workshop, this meant that I had to craft a lesson plan that could work for a mixed ability group.
I used some of the techniques I have used with my choir The Gang of Angels such as…
- Locating your diaphragm,
- Breathing techniques,
- Warm ups
- Harmonising and being split into Sopranos (High woman singers), Alto’s (Low woman singers) and Tenors (High male singers)
- Choral songwriting skills
We ended up collaboratively writing quite an ominous, dissonant, yet amusing song called ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE’… which we sang on a round (some people still sing this to me lol).
I think that everyone did really well, they took direction and everyone participated even though some were convinced that singing was something that they shouldn’t do. There is something about filling rooms with harmony that restores something in me… I wasn’t sure if they got that same feeling but everyone appeared to enjoy it.
Mouty Poets and Loewenmaul Poets later did a writing exercise in one of the many opulent rooms of the Braunschweig Staat and one of the tasks was to write an anonymous note to different people in the group. In the note we had to tell the person what we had learned and or gained from them. We then folded our little notes up, put the persons name on it and gave note to them.
I had always meant to blog about this because it touched me alot, people had lots of kind words to say about me. I had kept the little notes and recently rediscovered them. I dont talk about negative experiences much but and as a woman who encounters alot of fatphobia and misogynoir, it was novel to receive a barrage of positive feedback like this all in one go!?! which made me feel appreciated.
Some of my favourite notes were …
‘I learned from your quiet confidence’
‘Wisdom, light and positivity’
‘I’ve learned to sing’
‘Always be yourself, without shame’
‘I love your voice and I loved your workshops, it was one of my favourites’
All in all I enjoyed my time there.