Classes & Workshops
Maura Volante, B.Ed, has been teaching vocal music since 1979, developing her own curricula over the years for adults and children. Her approach assumes that everyone can sing, that it is a healthy and pleasurable activity, and that it is a basic human right.
The more people sing, the better they get. Maura offers techniques for improving the sound, but she has come to the conclusion that the best way to sing better is to sing often.
Her goal is to help people make singing a regular part of life.
These programs are all adaptable for all kinds of gatherings: parties, retreats, camps, recreational and educational programs.
As the weather warms (it will, eventually!), Maura is eager to do the singing walks: WoodsWalk Sing and Old Ottawa Folk Walk. Get a group together and let Maura lead you through the woods or the streets of old Bytown. Details are below.
The Folk Process
Maura is interested in what she calls the folk process of learning songs. In this process, the song takes precedence over the singer, the tunes are learned by ear and the lyrics are (eventually) memorized so that singers are not reading lyrics as they sing. Maura acknowledges the utility of written music, but in group settings, the learning is done by ear.
In classes and songcircles she does not supply participants with printed lyrics or notation. Instead, singers look up, lip reading and watching for gestures; they listen for repetition and predictable rhymes and follow along with the leader, who has memorized the song. (At first this is usually Maura, but in an ongoing class this can be anyone who has taken the time to learn a song to share with the group.) This is the way folk songs have always been sung, and folk songs work best for this kind of learning because they are structured with lots of repetition, rhyme, stock phrases and other mnemonic devices. They also work best for unaccompanied singing because they contain the whole rhythmic structure in the melodies. Maura uses a lot of traditional songs, but also some originals and some other contemporary folk songs that fit these criteria.
Maura works primarily with groups. She has noticed that most people are not aiming for performance but simply want to regain the joy of singing that we all have as children but tend to lose along the way. For this, people need a positive experience so that they will keep doing it, and get better and better and enjoy it more and more.
Singing in groups gives people confidence and a positive experience of their own voices, because the group helps people sing stronger and more in tune. Later, when singing alone or with family and friends, people remember that experience and it helps them keep on singing.
Maura sometimes offers classes and workshops through community centres, but most of Maura’s teaching is offered to groups that already exist or form part of a larger gathering such as a conference or festival.
If you belong to an organization or are planning a gathering, consider including a songcircle, a singing class or workshop as part of the program.
One of the most relaxed and enjoyable formats for group singing is the songcircle.
Allowing each person the opportunity to request or lead a song, this format is focused on fun for everyone. Usually each song is done one time through, rather than the group trying to learn it thoroughly. Maura brings a list of songs she can lead, but anyone who knows a song by heart can lead it when it is their turn.
This format is equally accessible for people who sing often and those who never sing. The group pulls most people into key and the rest are free to sing off key.
After all, it is not a performance. It is all about fun. Maura puts people at ease so that even while engaging in challenging activities (which includes any kind of singing for many people) folks have fun and relax. Maura will bring this activity to any group of people who want to engage in singing.
Music of the Moment
Another huge interest for Maura is improvisational singing, and most of her classes
include some of what she calls Music of the Moment. Usually the format is call-and- response, leading to simple musical phrase-making, occasionally with words but mostly just sounds. Improvisational singing can be the focus of a workshop or class, or it can be simply a way of warming up without resorting to anything that feels like an exercise.
Maura Volante likes to sing while walking in the woods for a variety of reasons:
• Singing enhances the aerobic quality of the walking by demanding deeper breathing.
• She can rehearse songs, recognizing gaps in her lyric knowledge and specific singing issues.
• She can sing loud, knowing the sound is dispersed to the winds.
• She can look at the trees, the wildlife, the water and the sky, bringing this to the music.
Maura has occasionally taken groups of people on guided singing walks in local Ottawa woods. Folks who attended were deeply moved, saying that these outings would inform their own walking experiences in the future.
Generally, WoodsWalk Singing involves both songs and improvisational singing, responding to the surroundings and the inspirations of the participants. Maura leads some of the songs, and there are opportunities for the participants to lead if a song occurs to them. All singing is from oral learning and memory, with no props or printed materials.
WoodsWalk Singing is available for existing groups, or groups brought together for the purpose.
It is suitable for the following types of groups:
• Recreational programming for adults and children
• Workplace Retreats
• Seasonal Celebrations
• Cross-training for arts or fitness groups
Old Ottawa Folk Walk
A historical walking tour featuring traditional folk songs
This is a historical walking tour with a difference: instead of simply hearing stories and facts about old Ottawa, this tour offers you traditional Canadian folk songs. Maura Volante takes you through the downtown core utilizing a variety of routes including the Byward Market, the Rideau Canal, Sparks Street, Parliament Hill and other points of interest. At each stop, Maura sketches out some historical context and then sings a relevant folk song.
Some songs tell stories of the log drives and the shanty boys who worked the woods in the Gatineau Hills. Others relate to various historical events such as the War of 1812. There are dark ballads of tragic accidents and even murder, and other that celebrate life in early Canada with humour and romance. Many of the songs have a chorus, so there is ample opportunity for you to sing along with Maura if you like.
The tour is suitable for all ages and abilities, and the route can be adjusted if necessary to accommodate for mobility issues. It is available for any group wishing to provide participants with an interesting and engaging window into the history of Ottawa and of Canada. Suitable for visiting school groups, tour groups of all kinds, conferences and other gatherings.
Whether you sing with Maura in a classroom, a camp, a home, a festival, a workplace, the woods or a conference hall, you will experience the following kinds of skill development:
• Relaxing and loosening up to allow your voice to emerge
• Breathing and body awareness
• Developing your memory through repetitions of easy songs
• Rhythmic structures of music, related to body movement
• Increased confidence and enjoyment of singing