Westminster Conducting Institute Day 3

Robin with Weston Noble

“It’s impossible for the breath to escape the body without opinion.”

– Nova Thomas

Our second full day at the institute began with more vocal warm ups with Sabine.  There followed a lecture on the breath as the inspiration for great singing by Nova Thomas, associate professor of voice at Westminster, and James Jordan’s collaborator on “The Musician’s Breath.” We were introduced to several breathing exercises and techniques for improving fluidity and movement of the breath. In addition, Nova spoke about the concept of inhalation as inspiration and exhalation as expression.

I got my first chance to conduct in class, a great setting of the Ubi caritas text by Paul Mealor that was featured at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.  Our class is very supportive of each other and a pleasure to work with. I got some great constructive comments from Gary to add smoothness and expression to my conducting.

Lisa got to conduct for her class as well, and got some great feedback from Weston Noble on her technique.  Robin also got to conduct in class for the first time, although she has a bruised arm after a piano jumped out in front of her.

This evening’s lecture was a two-part affair, beginning with James Jordan’s discussion of conducting observation as a learning tool, followed by Gary Graden’s workshop on choral improvisation.  A 40 voice choir improvising melodies on a scale all at the same time is something to experience.

I came up the stairs from my classroom in the library earlier today to find Weston Noble sitting in the lobby.  I took a moment to thank him personally for the wonderful comments he made after my conducting master class last year.  His response was: “Moments like that are what keep me going.”  I think they may keep all of us going.

Quotes of the day:

“I’m a Presbyterian. I’m happy to sit in the back pew and clap on 1 and 3.”      – Bruce Chamberlain

“Coloratura sopranos are their own species. They’re the Chihuahuas of singing.” – Nova Thomas 


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