Hampton House Soundbeam experience

Duncan Mathison

The Hampton House Soundbeam Experience is a group of service users from a SCOPE centre in Northampton who perform music using Soundbeam.

First Soundbeam Experience

After attending a Soundbeam workshop around two years ago, service users and staff wanted their own Soundbeam system as soon as possible.

The first few months were spent getting familiar with our new equipment and finding out what was in the pre-programmed user set-ups. We then built musical pieces around the set-ups, changing the odd instrument or pitch sequence to our own preference and saving this to a user set-up. We used the Yamaha keyboard to provide some backing for the creations. As we got more adventurous we started making our own music creations from scratch, constructing original pitch sequences and programming voices. One of our first was synth led piece which was a variation on the ‘Close Encounters’ theme.

First Performance

It wasn’t too long until we were discovered. A lecturer from Northampton College heard the group and requested that we perform at their award ceremony. This gave us a positive aim which led to much rehearsal to produce two 20 -minute performances in November ’99 - our first public shows. All elements of the music were played by members of the music group with no accompaniment from tutors. The music group members received an Adult Learners Achievement Award as a result of the work involved.

Creating Links

Our confidence as a group was improving and we were looking for new projects to inspire us. After contact with another SCOPE unit in Buckinghamshire, the Princess Marina Centre, we arranged a music workshop with the service users there. This type of outreach work is now one of our main aims.

Our next project was in conjunction with a local Day Centre who approached us looking for other arts groups to collaborate with for their production of Cinderella, and our music for the Enchanted Forest scene was performed twice at the Masque Theatre near Kettering in December ’99.

It’s good but it’s hard, difficult sometimes … at least we’re not sitting about are we?’ Eileen

January 2000 started brightly with a performance at the SCOPE Northants Party - another adrenaline rush for the group. Our reputation was beginning to spread and we were shortly to do our first paid performance, providing the entertainment for a conference for health professionals in Bedfordshire. For this we prepared 30 minutes of material and performed it in February 2000.

The Northampton Borough Council Arts Department became interested in our project and in July 2000 we played two performances at the Northampton Show.

‘I like doing drums on switches’ Robert

We were creating as many contacts and looking for as many performance and fundraising opportunities as possible. BBC Northampton interviewed us in July and through links with the Millennium Volunteers group we had a major project to work to. The Millennium Volunteers at Campion School, Bugbrooke, Northants organised a Community and Youth music festival with proceeds going to equipment for our music projects. We performed alongside many local bands with a huge rig on the back of a lorry. It was amazing to hear our music played so loud and spread across miles of countryside.

Spirit of the Valley

Recently the group has been working with a local folk band, composing a piece of music about the river Nene to be performed at various venues. The piece of music has been written to represent the three rivers that combine to form the Nene. We have used a volume-controlled beam with relative distance so the musicians can ‘play’ the stream quietly by moving far away from the sensor. As the stream gets bigger the musicians move closer to the sensor and the volume increases. Three switches of different volumes playing random notes of a predefined pitch sequence represent the third stream.

Outreach Project

Our outreach project is now one of the main focuses of the group. This involves creating links with other disabled groups with a view to doing music workshops with them. The initial progress of this has been good with a workshops for a local disabled clubs. Special schools and day centres. The Outreach work provides a worthwhile and enjoyable service for the recipients, and for the clients at Hampton House who help plan and participate in the workshops. It is also a useful way to raise money for new equipment.

‘I like all of it, it’s brilliant. I like playing chords on switches and playing the beam.’ Louise

Future plans include dance and Music performances at the Castle Theatre in Wellingborough and at the Roadmender theatre. We hope to produce our own CD in the near future.