Instructional Program Overview
The instructional program at Choro Camp New England will be guided by our Musical Coordinator, Henrique Neto. Henrique has long served in a similar capacity at the Escola Brasileira de Choro Raphael Rabello in Brasilia. The school was founded in 1998 by his father, Reco do Bandolim, so we will be the beneficiaries of their two decades of experience not merely making this music, but making it accessible to mere mortals. Henrique is also the co-author, with Dudu Maia, of the Choro Handbook, which we will encourage you to make use of before, throughout and after Choro Camp.
We will develop our ability to play choro by doing just that: playing choro. We will no doubt play a much wider variety of tunes over the course of camp, but for instructional purposes we’ll give close attention to a selection of between 5 and 10 compositions that make up our Core Repertoire. Those tunes will be organized by their underlying rhythm – polca, maxixe, choro, valsa, samba, etc. – so those of us working on accompaniment can focus on one rhythmic style at a time.
While some classes at Choro Camp will be for a wide mix of instrumentation, others will be devoted to more narrow instrumental groups. Those groups are as follows:
- wind, brass and fretless stringed instruments
- mandolin / bandolim
- accordion and keyboards
- guitar (6 and 7 string)
- pandeiro and other percussion
The first two groups listed above will focus primarily on the melodic elements of choro. The last three groups listed will focus primarily on the role of accompaniment. Accordion and keyboard players (# 3 in our list) will straddle that fence and explore both their role as lead players and accompanists.
Melodic instrument groups will study:
- the learning and idiomatic interpretation of melodies;
- harmony – how to understand it and why that understanding matters;
- the role of melodic improvisation in choro, and approaches to it;
- and melodic counterpoint, both improvised and prepared.
The last three instrumental groups in the list above together constitute what is referred to as the “centro” of a choro ensemble. Pause to make note of that term, centro. You don’t have to be fluent in Portuguese to get the point. The accompanists in a choro ensemble are its center; they are central.
Without a competent group of accompanists who know how to create the diverse and distinctive rhythmic grooves these compositions require, it is simply not choro. So at CCNE we’ll be giving special attention to the not-at-all-humble role of the instruments that make up the centro. If you are a “lead” instrument player and you’d like to keep the roda going after you get home, consider inviting some potential accompanists to attend Choro Camp New England as well. They’ll thank you later.
About Class Levels
With at least two teachers available for most of the instrumental groups listed above we’ll be ready to break participants into different class levels so that everyone can move at an appropriate pace. To help us begin that sorting process we’ll ask you to self-assess in several of areas after you register, including:
- Your general skill level on your instrument in your preferred musical style.
- Your ability to read music (see the heading below on this subject);
- Your familiarity with choro.
There are no wrong answers to these questions. The information you provide will just help us be ready for you.
On Reading Music
Having the ability to read standard music notation will make it much easier for you to participate fully at Choro Camp and in the wider world of choro. Given that reading is part of how most orchestral instrumentalists learn to play, we presume that this will not be a big issue for those in the first instrumental group listed above (players of wind, brass and fretless stringed instruments.)
We anticipate, however, that some mandolinists and guitarists may not yet have the requisite reading skills to sight-read these tunes. So for them, in addition to whatever sheet music we prepare, we’ll also provide video intros to our Core Repertoire well in advance of camp:
- For mandolinists, these videos will show you the melodies being played at a moderate tempo.
- For guitarists, the video will demonstrate one possible accompaniment, including the baixarias (bass lines) that constitute such an important part of the guitar’s role in choro accompaniment.
Please note: We consider these accommodations a stop-gap measure that offers you just enough support to attend Choro Camp, get hooked, and then get busy working on your reading skills. Learning to read is no substitute for ear training, but it’s a big help for anyone who wants to access this vast and rich repertoire. Plus, you’ve been meaning to get around to it…right?
Beyond that, guitarists and cavaquinho players will need only to be able to interpret chord names. Your skill at doing so using different chord inversions will be one of the ways we sort people into different class levels.
All these elements come together in a day full of music-making. Have a look at this overview of the daily schedule at Choro Camp.