Workshop Report contributed by Gail Rosecrance

Albert Manders, our EUU champion and startling flutist, led a 2018 Fall retreat workshop called Musical Free Improvisation. He invited all, regardless of experience, even those without instruments.

Fifteen participants gathered in a circle in a room where beautiful, autumn trees crowded the view outside the windows. When we introduced ourselves, we learned that there were some recognized musicians and singers amongst us, but Albert assured us that he wanted to emphasize the «free» aspect of his workshop title. This liberty he contrasted to the improvisation occurring in jazz which is often rule-bound. He suggested, motioning to the windows, that we might perceive that tangle of colored leaves as art and music and what we hear as music in the moment. Music was all about listening.

In the darkened room, we went on a voyage of listening. We closed our eyes and first heeded ambient sounds, naming them together after a minute or two: humming ventilation, waves of traffic and footsteps, punctuated voices, wind rustlings, whistling. Drop the naming now, Albert proposed. «Hear the tones: high, medium, low.» Then, we might make noises, all the while listening to what sounds were occurring, made by the other participants. Later, we hummed, then made vocalizations and sang and mimicked.

We created something. We all felt we’d transcended something too. It was not «me» making sound. It was music calling forth from us…

Albert asked, “What would you say to presenting this at the talent-variety show tonight?” Ah, gasp. And we did. The audience was invited to join in. And they did!