You’re standing in a circle with a dozen or more singers, facing a leader in the center. You’re arranged so that the people near you sing in about the same range as you. The leader checks out what’s going on at the moment—time of day, time of year, energy level of the people in the room, things going on outside the room—and starts to sing.
Before long, the leader is looping a short musical phrase and turning to a segment of the circle, using their body language to say “sing this, please.” The singers pick it up, and the leader moves on, singing music that goes with the looping phrase. Before long, they have another one, and they’ve turned to your section with a look that says “this is your part.”
Before you know it, you’re singing in harmony—a multi-layered choral song that has never been sung before, and never will be again. You’re uplifted, you’re energized, and you feel a sense of connection with the other singers in the room. The song ends, another begins, and the cycle continues. This is Circlesinging.
Circlesinging is a form of Vocal/Choral Improvisation. This broader practice encompasses a variety of techniques that groups of singers can use to make up choral or chamber-choir music on-the-spot. In some formats, each singer (or section) makes up their own musical response. Most Vocal/Choral Improvisation formats can be adapted for use as a performance practice or a community singing practice. These formats were pioneered by Bobby McFerrin and members of his group Voicestra.
Amado co-leads Circlesinging-based community-singing events monthly in the Washington, D.C. area (Rockville, MD) with the improv choral group VoiceExchange. Meetings are scheduled and communicated through the website Meetup.com (Circlesinging Vocal Jam D.C.). Check there for a schedule.
Amado lives and works in western Virginia, near Radford University, Virginia Tech, and the city of Roanoke. Use the Contact page to inquire about Community Circlesinging anywhere in the region, or to set up an event.
Circlesinging also works well as a special Sunday service for Unitarian Universalist churches and other similar denominations. Amado and VoiceExchange have led several such services. Use the Contact page to get started.
You, too, can tap into your innate capacity to make music, and master the techniques of Vocal/Choral Improvisation for use in your classroom, community, or circle of musical friends.
Amado’s Improvised A Cappella workshop provides a solid base in the basic techniques of this practice. Workshop duration can be tailored to a particular group’s needs. Learn the techniques on a Saturday afternoon, and use them Monday in your choral classroom.
Amado’s experience in his Daily Song Project have given him a unique perspective on using the Loopy HD app for iPad. If you want to practice Circlesinging techniques but don’t have regular access to a circle of singers, Loopy HD might be for you. Amado offers a short course on using Loopy HD for Vocal/Choral Improvisation called Circlesinging Solo.