Beginning Conducting – Friday

Beginning Conducting Class at Westminster Choir College July 2010

    

The day started with more hilarity than I’ve experienced in quite some time…    

We had to wait for Dr. Jordan to arrive and begin his lecture, so we all reaquainted ourselves with the ‘conducting balls.’ Suddenly, there were many new conductors  multi-tasking – could we bounce on the balls and conduct at the same time – without losing our balance? I saw many fine examples that the answer was a resounding YES – but it was also like being in an America’s Funniest Home Videos spot for a few minutes. We were all laughing hysterically by the time Dr. Jordan arrived. He stuck his head in, commented, “You can sure tell it’s Friday…” and walked back out.    

Our last day featured lots of poignant moments as well. Travel arrangements made the first student leave by the end of the morning session, and a couple more had trickled off before day’s end.  Lots of hugs, well-wishes and prayers for safe travel were shared. But before we all went our separate ways, more words of wisdom were absorbed:    

“To make the choir sing softer, don’t change the amount of space you’re using, just make the movements smaller and lighter.  Higher and lighter movements bring more head voice into the sound. Lower, more weighty gestures will cause the singers to incorporate more of their chest voice. Begin your gesture where you want the sound to be born.”    

“You don’t have to conduct every minute – make sure the singers continue, which will enable you to step back and just listen.”    

“If both of your hands are doing the same thing (in other words – conveying the same information), then your message is diluted by 100%.”    

“Keep engaged with the sound no matter what. If you’re ‘talking’ to yourself about some technical problem while it’s going on, you won’t be using the correct side of your brain.”    

“Another example of ‘Vodoo Conducting’ (e.g. it works, but we dont’ know why) – if you want your choir’s pitch to go higher, raise your eyebrows. In turn, a more ‘relaxed’ facial expression will lower pitch slightly.”    

And my personal favorite (attributed to James Jordan):    

“Out of tune sopranos are cat bake.”    

Yeah, I’ll be thinkin’ about that one for a long time…    

So my very full week is over. It seemed to pass very quickly, but oh, my, what an enormous amount of information to absorb. John and I have spent the last two weeks since then processing and discussing the things we both learned in our separate courses, as well as ideas about how to implement all this into the music program at St. George’s. As with everything else we do, it’s all about the music.     

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…

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