Building community music brick by brick

OVER the last 10 years you may have seen performances created by community musicians from More Music in Morecambe.

You may even have taken part in one of their workshops, song-writing courses or music-making sessions.

But have you ever wondered how the music workers come up with such imaginative ways of organising the workshops and how you might do it if you were in their shoes?

These questions and many others are addressed in a superb new book by musician and composer, Pete Moser, who set up More Music in Morecambe a decade ago.

The book – 'Community Music: A Handbook' – is the culmination of a life spent making music with people and, in particular, the community of Morecambe.

Nowadays music workshops are held everywhere – in schools, offices, community centres, youth clubs, day centres, colleges. There is no limit to their scope and the possibilities are endless.

But when Pete started out only a handful of people were doing that type of work.

Pete, a true pioneer of community music, is delighted with the book which has has just taken on a tour of the UK, promoting it to musicians, teachers, people thinking about a career in community music, youth workers and health professionals.

"There is nothing like it," explains Pete, in a break from his work at The Hothouse in the West End.

"The reactions we have been getting from people have been really great. We've had people who've never run workshops and some very experienced people buying it.

Range

"There is such a broad range of things in here. It's fascinating."

Although aimed at the above groups, the book will also appeal to people who love music.

Beautifully designed by Space Lounge design studio in Lancaster, it is full of inspirational thoughts, ideas and advice. It even features a series of newly-commissioned poems by Manchester-based poet Lemn Sissay.

To get an insight into different ways of working, the book features nine musicians who work in the sphere of community music.

The featured artists include Lancaster composer, singer and musician Steve Lewis and Dan Fox, a musician and composer from The Lanternhouse in Ulverston.

"Each one deals with their own area of music, each one telling their own story," says Pete. "There is a different vision in every chapter, covering singing through to group compositions, band work and drumming."

Two

Pete has written two sections himself; one on song writing and the other on the basics of running a music workshop.

"I wrote songs a bit as a kid and I developed ways of writing songs with other people," he explains.

"Over the last 10 years, through my work in Morecambe, I have developed a range of ways of making songs with people such as the 'Morecambe Streets' project which went on for four years. We ended up with about 400 to 500 songs."

Pete says there are many books which explain how to play a rhythm or how to be a DJ, but what he has tried to do with this book is to inspire people to develop their own method of working.

"If you teach something that you know really well, that comes from your personal passions and history, it connects better with a group," he says.

"If you take something off the shelf and say 'we're going to do exercise No 3', for example, it can't be as powerful.

"Good teachers are the ones that teach with their personal passion."

Pete says the profession of community music teaching has grown massively over the last 20 years.

"When I started doing this there were only around 30 people delivering that sort of thing.

"Over the last five years, it has exploded as a profession.

"It's because a lot of different people have seen how community music is a good way to deliver their goals, whether it's for a youth and community service, a regeneration agency or for groups.

"It's accessible to lots of people, whatever their cultural background. It works in rural places and in cities.

"At More Music in Morecambe we have been teaching people for 10 years.

"We thought it would be useful to put our experience into a handbook.

"It's been really interesting to do.

"We hope it will help lots of people."

Edited by Pete and George McKay, a professor of cultural studies who lives locally, the book is published by Russell House Publishing and is for sale at The Hothouse on Devonshire Road in Morecambe's West End, (telephone 831997), for 25. Development of the book was funded by Youth Music and the Arts Council of England.