We are known as Ambleside Club, a sports, leisure and community club situated in the heart of Nuneaton, Warwickshire. We wanted to do something to help our local residents overcome the negative impact on their mental health caused by the pandemic, and when we saw what Matt Ford had already achieved with his SingSwingSing! workshops elsewhere, we knew that we wanted to work with Matt to run it at our club.
People aged over 65 make up 18% of our population, but over 50% of those expressing feelings of loneliness and isolation (according to a recent ONS Survey). In Nuneaton alone that equates to around 13,000 people who may be isolated, or simply lonely. We obviously can't help them all, but we'd really like your help to allow us to improve the mental health of as many as we can.
SO WHO IS MATT FORD?
Matt Ford has been a professional singer for 21 years, performing four times at the BBC Proms, and in over 2000 big band concerts Nationwide, making him the UK's most experienced exponent of songs of the Swing Era. Matt is Nuneaton born and bred, and has a vested interest in helping the community he grew up in with this project.
He developed SingSwingSing! during the pandemic when he saw the effect of isolation on the older members of society, and indeed, his own family. We all know that music is not only good for the soul, but the actual act of singing is great for both physical and mental wellbeing. Over the course of the seven week project, Matt will be coaching, teaching, supporting and encouraging participants, as they work on a song (of their own choice). Through SingSwingSing! a group of over-65's will reap the benefits of singing and performance - self-confidence, self-esteem and social bonding. Matt has run this project at other venues, and the results are astonishing!
WHO IS SINGSWINGSING! DESIGNED FOR?
Over 65’s who have been isolating/isolated during the pandemic, and those who are lonely or nervous about re-socialising.
WHAT DO PARTICIPANTS DO?
There are 3 types of participant;
• Drop in’s – each week, prior to the main workshop, we will hold a 30-minute, drop-in vocal health and development session. Up to 50 participants can be accommodated for the drop-in sessions.
• Singers – 8 singers will attend the main workshop and develop their vocal skills. They choose their own song from the Swing/Big Band Era, for which the music is written, and a backing track (for home practice) professionally recorded, mastered and produced. Why only 8? Well, each singer gets 20 minutes at the piano, so any more than 8 would make the workshop over 3 hours long!
• Non-singers – 10 non-singing participants will attend the main workshops to provide moral support and feedback to the singers. They will learn by listening and watching the development process. It is hoped that these participants will form the next group of singers when when we run the project again. Why only 10? At the beginning of the course all the singers are really nervous! If we include too large an audience too early, we can make things worse for the singers. Our aim is to build their confidence gradually.
WHAT WILL THE DROP-IN SESSIONS COVER?
The drop in sessions are included to give people the opportunity to enjoy a gentle re-introduction to group activities. They don't need to commit to anything. They can come and go as they please, but can attend every session if they wish. It's a way of re-integrating through a short, focused, practical, social activity.
Each week participants will work on one of the following;
• How to keep your voice healthy
• Breath control and breathing techniques
• Voice strengthening exercises
• Relaxation and singing
• Warm up techniques
• Nutrition, hydration and singing
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MAIN SESSIONS?
Once the singers are recruited, they discuss song options with Matt, the music is written and a professional backing track (for home practice) recorded and produced. Each week the singers take turns to work with Matt, and a professional pianist, on their song for 20 minutes.
• Week 1. The Importance of Words
• Week 2. Singing the Correct Melody
• Week 3. Connection to the Audience
• Week 4. Body Language & Movement
• Week 5. Dynamics in Music
• Week 6. Emotional Content
In week 7 participants are given the option of taking part in a final performance before an audience of invited family and friends. For this performance a professional trio is engaged.
WHO ELSE IS INVOLVED?
Matt has assembled a team of experienced music industry professionals to ensure SingSwingSing! is of the highest quality. Sure, it could be done on the cheap, but we believe in providing the best experience we can for all our participants.
Matthew Regan, our pianist, is a veteran of 9 BBC Proms concerts and is widely recognised as one of the finest pianists in the UK. He is also on the Professorial staff at Trinity Laban in London.
Clive Dunstall writes the music for our singers and records the backing tracks for their home practice. Clive is always in demand for writing and playing. He's currently touring with Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag!
Pete North owns independent Jazz label Diving Duck Recordings. He has produced over 20 albums, is an ace trombone player and will master and produce the backing tracks.
Dave Tandy is currently the drummer with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra and The Dreamtown Orchestra. He will be playing drums in the week 7 performance.
Jeremy Brown is the bass player with the John Wilson Orchestra, has worked extensively with the BBC Big Band, and has been in Matt's band for 15 years. Jez will play bass in the week 7 performance.
Higham Lane Leisure Association is known locally as Ambleside Club. The club has been a centre for sports, leisure and social groups for many years, and is a thriving community hub. The club are happy to provide a safe, comfortable and trusted environment for SingSwingSing!
The total cost of the project is around £14000. Between Ambleside club and Matt, we have almost £6000 of this already covered, but need your help and generosity to finance the remaining £8019. SingSwingSing! is offered as a free activity to all those involved.
This money is spent on providing a professionally run, highest quality project and pays for things like musicians' fees, design and print of advertising materials, advertisements in the local paper (to recruit participants), recording and production fees for the rehearsal backing tracks, writing of music for the singers, and keyboard hire. We've already provided the venue and PA system, and both 'Matts' are freely donating their time and expertise for the drop-in sessions. Every penny is accounted for, and is used to make the participants' experience of SingSwingSing! as good and as valuable as it can possibly be.
Here are a few comments from participants of Matt's previous SingSwingSing! workshops...
'Great fun...the course has improved my singing and my self confidence, and I've made new friends' Mr W
'I think it has helped my self-confidence grow. I wouldn't change a thing. Matt has been friendly and encouraging' Mrs H
'One of the most worthwhile things I've ever done' Mr P
The video you can see above is of a rehearsal for a week 7 performance. In week 1 these people were nervous, anxious and timid. With just 6 weeks of SingSwingSing! under their belts they stood up in front of an audience of family and friends (sometimes the hardest thing to do!) and sang their hearts out. They all, without exception, left the workshop full of confidence and joy.
Thanks for reading all of the information. I hope you'll consider contributing to SingSwingSing!