Free Improvisation Workshop with band Valia Calda

We invited 2nd Year BA Music student Zoe Yeung to give her impressions of the free improvisation workshop led by London-based jazz band Valia Calda at Project Space Plus (University of Lincoln). Students were given the opportunity to conduct an improvised piece based on simple gestures which led to a myriad of interesting and vastly different compositions.

music-workshop_33584672136_oZoe Yeung, conducting the BA Music
improvised orchestra during the workshop

On Friday 24th March, first and second year BA music students had the privilege to attend a workshop, run by jazz band Valia Calda. The workshop was predominately led by double bass player Thodoris Ziarkas with the support of the other band members: Nikos Ziarkas (guitar/electronics), Gasper Sena (drums), James Allsopp (bass clarinet & tenor saxophone) and Sam Warner (trumpet & flugelhorn).

Thodoris began the workshop by explaining what “improvisation” meant to him, followed by examples from each member of the band (see videos on our YouTube channel). The examples showed us that although improvisation may sometimes seem random and unplanned, performers need to listen and follow each other in order to create a successful performance.

We then moved on to learning different hand gestures for conducting. Thodoris introduced us to the movements used by the London Improvisers Orchestra, which he is a member of. This was very interesting as they were not gestures that any of us were familiar with when playing as part of an ensemble. Some of the hand gestures included: fist to palm (staccato note), hand over mouth (play unvoiced instruments), tapping wrist (to count beats), pointing at a player and pulling ear (listen to solo instrument and accompany). The list we were given included 30 different gestures, but we only used a limited number to keep each performance simple.


Thodoris Ziarkas showing us some conducting gestures


Students trying them out on the group…


We were also lucky to have James, Jamie and Daniel, three Audio Production students who recorded the whole workshop, using it as an opportunity to record new sounds created by an unusual orchestra. Thanks to them, we have a recording of everyone’s pieces as each student took turns to conduct the whole group.

I’m sure I can speak on behalf of all the students that attended that it was a fun, educational and unforgettable experience.



Photo credits: Phil Crow
More pictures here.

Valia Calda, currently touring their new album, Methexis, performed their music later in the evening at the Commuter Jazz night at Zing Café (Lincoln Performing Arts Centre), supported by local act Marta Hristea Quartet.

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Zoe Yeung is a second year BA Music student. She is a singer and a pianist with a particular interest in musical theatre.

Zoe Yeung is a second year BA Music student. She is a singer and a pianist with a particular interest in musical theatre.

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