By Elizabeth Moreland, Shelburne Falls, MA – firstname.lastname@example.org
From July 5 through 9, 2016, at the height of expanding summer warmth and light, twenty-some lyrists gathered at the Hartsbrook (Waldorf) School in Hadley, Massachusetts, to experience the joy of being together and to explore the conference theme, "How Does the Tone of the Lyre Move in Us?"
It was evident at every moment how well this conference had been planned by the five main teachers, Channa Seidenberg, Sheila Johns, Veronika Roemer, Cate Decker (Spacial Dynamics®), and Karen Derreumaux (Eurythmy), as well as by those who led the small groups and those who organized all the conference details such as registration, housing, meals and all the other unseen elements that make such an event so successful.
How can I begin to describe the richness of this gathering? I was inspired and moved and deeply touched by the experience of listening and playing together, by the depth of understanding of the presenters, and by the many conversations and sharings I had with the other participants. This conference turned out to be a major highlight of my summer.
Each day began and ended with lyre and gong improvisations on the tone of the day. To me, these were like sacred portals through which we entered into and departed from our work together. They literally set the tone for the day and sealed our time together in the evening.
Each morning Channa led us in group work exploring specific intervals, such as the fourth, the fifth, and the major and minor thirds. These seemingly simple to grasp exercises required enormous concentration and attentive listening. At times, we each played, in turn, a specific interval, and then we practiced with one person playing the first tone, and the next person completing the interval. This was taken a step further toward the end of our time by having to "hear" whether the lyrist sounding a tone was inwardly anticipating an interval of the fourth or fifth. There was so much to experience in these exercises!
Then the work we had done was taken up in the realm of movement, first by Cate with Spacial Dynamics, and then by Karen with Eurythmy. These two teachers worked very well together, and we could move seamlessly from one to the other. Both Cate and Karen had inwardly penetrated the connections between tone and movement, and this deepened our experience of the tonal work. It was a joy to work with both of them, and was a very good balance to the intense focus and concentration of the listening work.
No conference is complete without good food, and here I can only praise the excellent snacks which were provided twice a day, and the stellar lunches and dinners catered by Paul and Elizabeth's Restaurant. To my taste, the food could not have been better.
After lunch we gathered as a group to work further on the conference theme. These sessions were facilitated by Sheila and Veronika, and centered on bringing all skill levels into playing Le Cygne, by Camille Saints-Saens and Wie Melodien Zieht es Mir by Johannes Brahms. This work was then carried over to our small groups and our playing in the evening, and culminated in a performance of Le Cygne for all of the children at the Hartsbrook Summer Camp. Veronika played solo on her special viola, accompanied by all the rest of us on our lyres. This stands out in my mind as one of the highlights of the conference. The children were so attentive and receptive to the music, and one little boy even came back to express his appreciation. The lyre is truly a healing instrument for our time.
And, of course, there was singing each day, so beautifully led by Channa. We began with Werbeck exercises, and then sang many rounds and pieces in three part harmony.
All in all, it was a feast for the soul, and a vivid experience of the importance of this particular music impulse in our lives. Truly, as Channa impressed upon us, we can all be mindful of the gifts that we have received, and how we might bring them out into the world and share them with others. May our work on the lyre be blessed!