European Cooperation Project
« Children's voices / Stage space »
This project aims at developing children’s vocal learning and practice by combining them with performing arts (theatre, dance, movement).
Throughout Europe, since the 1980s, thanks to reforms that have permitted its development in extra-curricular activities, children’s singing has generated unprecedented enthusiasm. There are numerous children’s choirs performing remarkable work in rural areas, towns, and territories often far from opera houses, comprised of children from all social backgrounds. More than ever, singing, a true cultural democratiser, remains the art form most accessible to the greatest number of people.
Despite this fascination, the image of static singing is no longer significantly attracting children as it once did. Choirs, as well as the general public, are increasingly enthusiastic about the combination of singing and the performing arts, such as dance and theatre. The success achieved in recent years by certain films reflects this new demand for combining song and movement.
Scott Alan Prouty, American choir director and founder of the children's choir, Sotto Voce, in France, is a pioneer of this vocal art learning method directly associated with bodily movements and stage space.
Contrary to a certain classical method that "freezes children," Scott Alan Prouty has developed a revolutionary pedagogy in musical education that builds on the energy, spontaneity and creativity peculiar to the world of children. This children’s choir specialist teaches singing while also inviting children to perform stage movements and motion. Singing and playing go hand in hand: Scott Alan Prouty offers children a rigorous and constructed vocal training, developing a sense of stage and performance and within a group spirit.
The superior quality of his choir could not be better known throughout Europe: he has demonstrated that combining singing and movement favours the expressiveness, the vocal quality, the development, and the well-being of the child.
Children love to move and music is movement. It is essential, therefore, that the method for learning how to sing involves a discovery that is both playful and demanding and gives children "a crazy desire to sing and be onstage. Children’s vocal technique includes vocal and theatrical games, exercises in rhythm, musical and body expression.” Scott Alan Prouty's pedagogy has proven its worth by making music culture easily accessible to all types of audiences.
Building on an effort to democratise culture (notably the highly successful walking operas – opéras-promenades – which bring together both amateurs and professionals), the Edwige-Feuillère Theatre and the Ensemble Justiniana, in close collaboration with Scott Alan Prouty, created the Month of Children’s Voices/Stage Space at the Theatre of Vesoul in 2009.
This annual event constitutes a unique experiment of stage work with children's choirs, the whole creation focusing on the combination of vocal work and stage movement. Workshops and master classes are open to all. The event has been a remarkable success with an increasingly numerous audience, one not necessarily made up of music lovers, thereby creating a dynamic and a real momentum in many ways.
In 5 years, on a regional scale, stage productions featuring children have multiplied by 4, drawing an ever more numerous public. This evolution has earned the event the recognition of the State, which awarded it, in 2012, the label “Scène conventionnée, Children’s Voices/Stage Space," making it the first publicly subsidised stage devoted to children's voices in France.
This experience is not unique, however, as a quick survey confirms the existence throughout Europe of other research and experiments combining children's voices and stage movement. In Turin, for example, the Piccoli Cantori performed pieces of musical theatre, and even staged an opera written by the children of their choir. They also worked on improvisation and on studying how sound carries through space, thus conveying the idea of stage space. While, in Lisbon, the Children's Choir of the University has autonomously developed an original teaching method also combining song and movement during the learning phase of songs, emphasising children's stage creativity and their own movement suggestions. In Belgium, the Children's Choir of Hainaut has developed, once again autonomously, a specific work method modelled on the extraordinary success of a production it staged in 2008. More generally, Anglo-Saxon musicals are increasingly inspiring the performances of European children’s choirs, which sometimes encounter difficulties trying to bring to life their own creations of this kind.