Circle Songs are perhaps the most popular form of group singing these days –says Bob Stoloff.
Circle singing is all about the spontaneous creation of vocal music.
It’s also a viable learning tool for contemporary vocalists with all levels of experience and musical backgrounds.
You can see it at work in this video:
How It Works
Typically, the group facilitator will initiate a circle song by rote, offering a spontaneous musical idea (motif) to the entire group or designated singers.
This is enhanced by using hand signals to demonstrate rhythmic pulse and/or melodic contour and it is typically chanted in unison or octaves depending on the ratio of male and female voices.
This might be a 1-2 measure ostinato that loops until the facilitator decides to assign ancillary phrases that add complementary pith to the music.
Additional motifs are offered to (or created by) other singers in the group and this process continues until 3, 4 or more parts are successfully launched.
The primary objective of circle singing is to produce a vocally improvised piece that has musical integrity.
This can be achieved a cappella or with instrumental accompaniment.
Facilitators will also begin a circle song by first dividing the singers into sections similar to a choir, band or orchestra.
In this case, designated or voluntary section leaders offer independent musical ideas that correspond musically to form a multifarious group composition.
Circle singing is also about building community through teamwork and cooperation.
In addition to nurturing intuition, circle songs encourages singers to take more risks, build self-esteem and confidence, develop leadership skills and more than anything, to just have fun with music!
There are many approaches to this kind of experiential learning, each with a focus on specific musicianship skills depending on what the facilitator brings to the table.
As a venue for group improvisation, circle singing offers a diverse palette of musicianship skills to those who might be shy about studying music formally.
Musical Lessons Learned
By using a circle song approach, participants can casually learn about tonality, dynamics, rhythm, meter, “Instru-Vocal” articulation, harmony, counterpoint and many other essential musical concepts.
Circle singing encourages both amateur and professional vocal ensembles to create spontaneous harmony and counterpoint by layering or “looping” short musical phrases using syllables, text and sometimes choreography.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
David Toole - Kings On The Hill
David is an extraordinary singer who demonstrates a potpourri of musicianship skills and innate talent. He is a gifted performer who sings effortlessly with technical power, cogent expression and stylistic conviction. In addition to his superb overall performance, David falls into the category “most likely to succeed” and I don’t say this lightly.
Why I chose David Toole as a Finalist
For these reasons I am choosing David to move ahead as a semifinalist in Voice Council’s Singing Competition.
Bob Stoloff is a world-renowned guest conductor, workshop clinician and ensemble performance adjudicator. His unique and comprehensive approaches to teaching include traditional scat singing, group improvisation, “Instru-Vocal” articulation and body percussion. Bob’s books and information about his Vocal Jazz Academy in Europe can be found at bobstoloffmusic.com.