It’s the holidays and it’s never too soon to start the toddlers at musical summer school. Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and saxophonist Becki Biggins is holding a free Musical Picnic. Peter Bacon found out more:
LondonJazz News: The Musical Picnics are produced by Symphony Hall in association with Mubu Music. How did you become involved?
Becki Biggins: The Picnics are organised by Sam Slater [of Mubu Music and] Stoney Lane Records, whom I first met this year at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. He booked me for the festival’s Family Sing show, which went down well with our capacity crowd. So, we’re doing it again in Birmingham and we have more festival appearances coming up.
LJN: When and where is it and what happens?
BB: It’s a family workshop I’m doing this Saturday, 28 July, at 10.30am at Symphony Hall [level 3 foyer] in Birmingham. Every month they organize a (free) Musical Picnic where musicians from all genres come in and give a workshop aimed at kids aged 0-7. This month I’m going to be giving a Blues-themed workshop where we’ll discover what makes the Blues, through singing, clapping, dancing, playing percussion and even writing our own Blues verses. As a qualified music teacher and a mum, I’ll be doing what I do every day, just in nicer clothes…
LJN: Why might the Blues be useful for the very young?
BB: Apart from being a fantastically evocative and very cool genre, the Blues in its simplest form has a number of accessible teaching points. The AAB structure of its melody and lyrics are easily recognisable, even to young children, and the repeated first line makes teaching a Blues chorus a quick process, meaning we don’t need lyric sheets (which is helpful when most of your audience can’t read yet).
For older children, we can introduce identifying chord V7 (by listening out for the chord or counting the bars) and writing their own Blues lyrics, which in this workshop they’ll hear performed by myself and a live band. I also think it’s important for kids to start listening to lyrics as early as possible and think about how they can make us feel; young people can be moved by music just as much as older people, and it’s incredible when kids start really listening and responding to the words they hear.
LJN: Will you be sharing the delights of your Musical Toybox (explained HERE) with the children? (I do hope the “scratchy frog” will make an appearance)
BB: I will absolutely bring my Musical Toybox! Since I made the film my toybox has expanded dramatically and the scratchy frog has been joined by all manner of percussion instruments, from rainmakers to castanets. They’ll all be with me in Birmingham, ready for a Blues-inspired cacophony. I really love a lot of noise, so the more kids we have joining in, the better.
LJN: And what about music for grown-ups?
BB: In terms of my own music, I’m working on a new project called It’s a Man’s World. It’s a collection of songs written, made famous and inspired by men (so a mixture of standards, pop tunes and originals), which I’m recording later this year with Bristol-based musicians John-Paul Gard (Hammond organ) and Andy Tween (drums). We’re aiming to release the record early next year, with an accompanying tour.