Westminster Conducting Institute Day 2

So here we are on Day 2 of a graduate level conducting class that happens in 6 days.  In the immortal words of Jon Bachman: “It’s like drinking from a fire hydrant.” Here’s the schedule for the first full day:

8:30-9:30 – Group Vocal Technique with Sabine Horstman

Stretching, breathing and more descending sighs than you can shake a stick at.  There’s a great irony in being subjected to the same warmups that I foist upon my own singers.  Much of her warmup was done without accompaniment, including a 3 part round that says hello in nine languages.  I’ll be sure to get a copy.  You’ll love the Czech…..Freedom of movement is a big part of the warmup. Point at the ship, make a small circle with your nose, wave to your neighbor. 

11:05-12:20 – Sight reading with Jim Jordan and Weston Noble

We got to sing the Rheinberger “Abendlied” which the Westminster Group performed at St. George’s on the tour.  Also a Russian Ave Maria, Morton Lauridsen’s “Sure on this shining night” and some new music by Blake Henson, the composer in residence at the institute.  There is much to be learned from watching a good conductor.  Everyone should try it…..at least once.

12:20-2:00 – Lunch

2:00-3:15 – Body mapping with Jim Jordan, featuring Jim’s animated conducting skeleton video

An amazing session that clearly demonstrates how conducting movement and gesture affects overall choral sound.  He conducted the same short exercise three different ways and the sound changed every time. The DVD features software that maps a digital video of Jim conducting onto an animated version of his skeleton.  You can see very clearly how much movement there is and which bones move where.  I have much to do…

3:30-4:45 – Conducting class

I ended up in a class of 8 conductors with two faculty, Dennis Shrock and Jim Jordan.  (Justice at last!)Dennis took the class today, wherein each of us conducts while the rest serve as choir.  I didn’t conduct today, but surely will tomorrow.  There is a great deal of sharing and wonderful feedback from Dennis, who has a solution for every conducting problem at his fingertips.  I plan to work on the The Rheinberger and Lauridsen at least.  We’ll see how it goes.

4:45-6:15 – Dinner in Downtown Princeton

6:15-7:45 – Mozart Performance Practice Lecture with Dennis Shrock

Dennis is writing a book on Classical performance practice.  Using literature, letters, diaries and treatises from the period, he shared comments on tempo. articulation, ornamentation and other facets of performing Mozart and other Classical works.  I’ll never look at “Ave verum” the same way again, nor will you.

Quotes of the day from Sabine:

“If your singers are in misery, they will do it (sing) their way. Misery can come from too many high notes, difficult music or holding up their music for too long.”

“Singing the right pitch at the right time is good, but it is not the music.”

More tomorrow.



1 Comment

Filed under Church Music

One response to “Westminster Conducting Institute Day 2

  1. Todd

    I’m sure I speak for many of us in saying we look forward to watching a good conductor…at least once. Of course many of us never watch the conductor (which may be the source of some of our problems…)

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