Westminster Conducting Institute Day 3

The Daily schedule ran the same today, although we’re a little tired.

Highlights of the group choral warmup with Sabina Horstman:

Lots of stretching, breathing and movement, including rhythmic canons on fff, ss, t, and ch.  Humming, descending sighs, Jim Jordan exercises with hand motions and swinging rounds in 3 and 4 parts. Sabina’s quotes of the day:

“That was very romantic, now sing like a German military choir.”

“I’m a soprano and everyone should hear me.”

“If you ask your church choir to move, they will laugh at you, but if you stick with it, eventually they will move a little bit.”

Breathing lecture with Jim Jordan and Weston Noble

Here’s all you need to know: When you take a breath to sing, everything about the music that follows is in that breath.  You imagine the phrase that you are about to sing while you breathe in and then sing it.  Once you start to sing, do not attempt to modify the tone or create any effect. Deep stuff…

A word about Weston Noble:  He just celebrated his 65th year of teaching, much of which was spent as director of the choir at Luther College.  He talked about his musical “aha” moment in concert band rehearsal in 1935, playing the Light Calvary Overture on a metal clarinet.  He is co-author of the warm ups that I use regularly and is active as a choral clinician and speaker. He radiates love and caring and conducts with an elegance that seems to come from on high.  In his own words:

“I have to remove the barriers between myself and my choir, EVERY DAY!”

“In choir, your Linus blanket is the person on either side of you.”

“The eyes never lie.”

Morning Conducting class

A humbling experience.  When you’ve conducted one way for years and suddenly need to change everything about your conducting style, it’s difficult and frustrating.  We’ll try again tomorrow….

Movement and Ear Training with Marilyn Shenenberger

FYI, Marilyn wrote many of the piano accompaniments for our choral warmups.  The class included passing a ball around a circle on the beat, reversing direction on the trills, standing in a circle and manipulating a large stretchy loop to the music as a group, walking on the beat and posing at random times, and of course, learning about solfeg, using the very same exercises that we use regularly.  I felt right at home.

Afternoon Conducting Class

Still smarting from the morning session, I just sang.

Evening Lecture –  Diction and articulation with Charles Bruffy, director of the both Kansas City and Phoenix Chorales.

Charles is both brilliant and incredibly funny.  We spent 30 minutes singing 6 notes to get the consonants right. A luxury for the real world, but a great learning experience. When someone asked how we could devote so much time to the details of diction when we were worried about necessary things like pitch and rhythm in the real world, he responded with a quote from Frank Lloyd Wright:

“If you get the luxury items right, the necessities will take care of themselves.”

Tomorrow, my first yoga class…



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