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The 2013 masterclass was designed to develop the skills of teachers in Key Stages 2 and 3 who lead singing activities and choirs in their schools. It was the first such Bach Choir event and was led by our Musical Director, David Hill, with his wealth of experience in choral conducting and training.
Most of the music specialists/teachers from The Bach Choir Outreach Project schools attended, as did the conductors and animateurs of the Outreach workshops held in their schools, who are volunteers from The Bach Choir. The Tri‐borough Music Hub funded the costs for the four music specialists from its schools.
Other members of The Bach Choir who are interested in working as animateurs or conductors for Outreach in the future also took part. In future we hope to attract more teachers through publicity on the websites of the Tri‐Borough Music Hub and The Bach Choir.
The morning session, “How to teach children to sing’’, was presented by Hilary Jones. Hilary is co‐author of “Giving Voice”, a book on choir training and conducting, and worked with David Hill for more than 17 years at Westminster and Winchester Cathedrals. Everyone enjoyed her informative and active delivery. She covered the physiology of singing – the role of the larynx and tongue, breathing and in fact the whole body. The hand-outs will be useful for participants as they return to the classroom to try out techniques such as animal noises and adjusting the head position in line with the dog in the Churchill ad!
David then enlightened the participants on “Conducting techniques and choir leadership”. Conducting is so much more than keeping the beat. Using the hand, arm and body in ‘painting’ the sound, as with a paintbrush, was new to many of us and not as easy as you might think. He encouraged conductors to watch themselves in a mirror or video to hone their skills. He also gave useful tips on how to balance praise and criticism to help singers reach a high standard of performance.
In the afternoon participants were given the opportunity to conduct members of The Bach Choir. David gave advice and encouragement; with humorous exchanges with those brave enough to wield a baton!
Feedback was mostly very positive. The comments included:
‘The sessions were really helpful and interesting. I learnt a lot about how to look after the voice, and how hard a conductor’s job is!’
‘Hilary’s talk on children’s voices was invaluable. I learnt a great deal from the conducting session.’
‘No need to restrict this to teachers of KS2 & KS3 and it could be advertised nationally next time’.