As the Festival d’Aix launches its 2016 season, 12 singers from different backgrounds meet in Aix-en-Provence with musician and educator Mark Withers and director Sybille Wilson, to learn how to communicate the keys to their art to different audiences.
It’s 1 pm on Friday 22 January 2016 and 12 singers and two team leaders are meeting for the first time at the Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence. They are about to spend four days together. There are no big Mozart arias on the agenda, and no sign of any recital-style white ties or long dresses. The idea is to explore, play, improvise and give free rein to their creativity.
The objective is a simple one: on Monday they will all find themselves facing around fifty 11 to 14-year-old school students, tasked with introducing them to music and helping them to discover operatic singing.
Over three days, the singers will think about the process, taking part in games and then experimenting with musical improvisations and elements of staging. On Sunday, the 12 singers will split up into two groups of six and build their workshop for the following day. Getting teenagers to sing seems like an impossible task.
And yet on Monday 25 January after 90 minutes of playing around with sounds like “Zip-Zap-Boing” and becoming aware of the breathing apparatus and resonators, many of the classes try to sing a few notes. Mark Withers and the singers were even asked to do another session in the afternoon to help the youngsters make their first compositions with the help of a musical improvisation game.
Perhaps these artists and school pupils will soon see each other again at the Théâtre de l’Archevêché ... maybe even on stage!