The Windsor, Vt., middle school students of music teacher Carol Cronce and theater teacher Julie Aylward had a chance to learn from world-class artists in workshops January 5 with performers connected with the show Layla and Majnun, presented at Hop January 6 and 7. (To hear VPR reporter Rebecca Sananes’s firsthand account of the workshops, click here.)
Layla and Majnun is a show of live music and dance based on an ancient tale from the Islamic world and a gorgeous century-old opera from the Republic of Azerbaijan. It’s a collaboration of two world-renowned artistic groups: the Silk Road Ensemble, founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and dedicated to creating new music rooted in Central Asian traditions, and the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), led by Morris, a choreographer with a gift and passion for cross-cultural creation and for dance performed to live music.
In the Windsor High School auditorium, MMDG dancers Billy Smith and Nicole Sabella led theater students in physical warm-ups and movement exercises.
In the school’s band room, percussionist Shane Shanahan, bassist Shawn Conley and shakuhachi player Ko Umezaki of the Silk Road Ensemble led an engaging workshop for middle school band and chorus students. Each musician introduced himself and demonstrated his instrument, sharing his instrument’s history and the story of how he began playing and came to be in this ensemble. They performed a tune from Mali called Ichichila, and then asked the students to pull out their instruments and join in. Umezaki taught the two main melody lines aurally, using words the students suggested to go along. On band instruments and voice, the students alternated between the two lines while Shanahan and Conley provided rhythm and Umezaki improvised a melody.
The workshops were part of ongoing programs at the Hop that send Hop visiting artists to area schools and other community settings to lead learning experiences free of charge.