The 2 year course I took at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Postgrad Choral Conducting, has a new director – Peter Hanke – a brilliant Danish Choral Conductor who I encountered a year ago at the ABCD convention. His workshop was so inspiring and helped us to think deeply about the singers as real people and the music in terms of emotions. He gave us tips on encouraging and open gestures.
Peter’s appointment made me reflect a bit on my training with Neil Ferris, Simon Halsey, Sarah Tenant-Flowers and Adrian Partington, and what it has led me to since I completed the course just over 3 years ago. I idly clicked on the link to the choral conducting page and to my surprise I saw… me! I’d forgotten about the promotional video we had been a part of 3 and a half years ago and apparently the best ‘still’ for the video they could find was of me in full flow conducting a choir and orchestra of RWCMD students – see it here! What a wonderful experience those two years were, full of highs and lows. But one of the very best elements of the course was my peers – we congratulated each other on triumphant rehearsals and performances and picked each other up after some disastrous masterclasses and dismal presentations! Sometimes we laughed, sometimes we cried, but whatever happened we were always supporting each other… “you can do it!” And whatever happened I always felt how lucky I was to have this opportunity; exhilarating, draining, fast-paced, demanding, stimulating opportunity to be a conductor. I was fortunate to land a great Cathedral job straight after graduating and in my home town. I met my husband at RWCMD and made other friends for life. I have used my contacts gained through RWCMD to commission an alumni composer – The King in the Car Park by Benjamin F Vaughan.
RWCMD has come a long way and isn’t given the credit it deserves. The music industry, like a lot of industries are London-based, but which musician can really afford to live in London? A few snooty choirs in the South East rejected mine and my colleagues’ job applications because we didn’t go to a London conservatoire. But who wants to work with a choir like that? I would rather work with a choir who want me for my skills not one which only employs people because they’ve been to Royal Academy of Music or Royal College or Guildhall. The great thing about RWCMD was that I didn’t have to do a piano audition, instead we did a singing audition. I think its much more important that Choral Conductors can hold a tune (which is not to say that you can’t be one if you can’t) than to be able to do what your rehearsal pianist does anyway. This course gets you out from behind the piano and puts you directly in touch with the singers. I think Peter Hanke will be the perfect fit to follow in the footsteps of the brilliant Neil Ferris who inspired me and gave me the confidence to live my dream.
I would recommend anyone wanting to take Choral Conducting seriously to do this course – and if they want to have a chat about it then ask me!
Good luck Peter!