Latin Music Summer School Friday 29th - Sunday 31st July 2011
The Latin Music Summer School took place at the Yorkshire College Of Music & Drama, St Marks House, Leeds, West Yorkshire over the weekend 29th - 31st July. (It was good to be home as I am a Leeds lass!) We had three tutors on the course - Dr Sue Miller a flute teacher and improvising performer (she is bandleader of Charanga del Norte). Apart from directing Cuban Music bands, she is also a part-time lecturer in Cuban, Popular and World Music at the university. The other tutors were Jack McCarthy (percussion) and Helen Curtis (Latin Keyboards and Samba.)
I had missed the Friday sessions as I was working (boo!) However, Sue and the other participants made me feel very welcome on the Saturday when I arrived. The day started with a yoga session as warm up, followed by a short sectional in our particular instrument groups - flutes, saxes, piano and percussion. For us flute players, Sue talked about the central place that flute has in Cuban popular music and the particular style of improvisation that fitted Cuban music. She talked about the differences in improvisation between say Jazz or Blues and Cuban music, saying that it was more melodic or diatonic rather than modal with much use of rhythm and space rather than fluid stream of notes. So those of us from a more Jazz background were often picked up on using too many 'blue' notes or going on and on needlessly LOL!!!! Sue's knowledge was encyclopaedic; coming from learning from the masters in Cuba itself. These included the legendary flautist from Orquesta Aragón, Richard Egües, in Havana, whom she commended for close listening!
Next was a Cuban Music Main Ensemble with the wider group of instruments. Sue took us through the various genres of Cuban popular dance music including Son, Son Montuno, Danzón, Mambo and Chachachá. She used three tunes that she especially arranged to teach us about all these styles: Bodas de Oro, Barandanga (my personal favourite) and La Flauta de Susan (or whoever was soloing at the time!) I really enjoyed playing these and soon fitted in with the group even though they had been working on these from the Friday. They were so welcoming, generous and encouraging which helped a great deal.
There was another a Yoga stint before lunch, which was followed by a Samba session. Taking part in Samba was a great way to think about rhythm but it was extremely tiring! So a mid afternoon break was definitely called for to recover! Another sectional followed with Sue demonstrating Cuban improvisation for flute - such as octave bounces, chromatic runs, bugle calls, turns on the dominant (the dominant to tonic is especially important) - and getting us to try these out.
The final session was a play through of the tunes we had been working on with the full Cuban ensemble.
I was shattered after quite a fun but intense day. Sunday started with yoga followed by a sectional. In this session, Sue concentrated on the altissimo notes as this is the register that the improvising flautist will use in Cuban music. She suggested rather than jumping into these straight away to use Trevor Wye's 'Preparation for the High Register' from his Tone book. It'll be awhile before I can attempt these altissimo notes beyond G but at least I have something to think about and work on. The rest of the day took on the same shape as the previous ones with full ensemble, yoga, after lunch Samba then sectional followed by a final play through of the pieces.
I found these two days very inspiring and now wish to take this further. Sue has suggested listening to performers, transcribing solos to develop the ear and just going for it and exploring and experimenting for yourself as well as trying to find people to play with. For me, Latin music is a wonderful and extremely beautiful vehicle for flute.
Well I've been talking about it. Here are some links to actually hear this glorious music:
Richard Egües http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpD16rFPPNg
Sue Miller playing with Charanga del Norte http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z600OP3JcOU
Orquesta Aragon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-f7M7hTnhoI&feature=related
There are loads of other examples of Charanga and popular Cuban music in general on youtube.