Conference report – Choral practice, performance and pedagogy, 8th April

‘A mix of some really practical engagement for teachers and singers, and some deeply thought-provoking content for those with more scholarly interests’.

The Music Department recently hosted an interactive choral research conference, organized by Dr Michael Bonshor, in collaboration with Professor Stephanie Pitts, SPARC, and the Institute of Musical Research. The main aim of the event was to provide an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to share their knowledge, through presentations, practical demonstrations and participatory workshops.

IMR Michael Bonshor Conducts the 'Conference Choir'The day began with a striking illustration of the broad range of choral interests represented. Cole Bendall’s presentation on audience reactions to screened performance of Handel’s Messiah was immediately followed by Craig Lees’ interactive session on using primal sound in pop choral performances, giving everyone a chance to channel their inner pop diva. Craig led us in choral demands for gin and tonic, using whines, whinges and even tantrums, which was very cathartic. In contrast with this, Dr Josephine Hoegaerts, from the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, demonstrated the high moral and behavioural standards required in the nineteenth century chorus. This session was conducted with the expected decorum, even without the introduction of a swear box!

Other workshops included Lucy Legg’s practical session on repertoire for developing singers, and Dr Susan Monks’s Pick and Mix Singing Road Show. Dr Mary Black, of Liverpool Hope University, presented the fruits of her recently completed thesis, exploring the verbal imagery used by conductors. The ‘conference choir’ of delegates and presenters enthusiastically sang in response to different styles of instruction, experiencing how this can affect choral performance.

The day ended with Dr Michael Bonshor’s presentation of his work on communal learning and collaborative approaches to confidence-building for choral singers. This was followed by Michael’s workshop, which was designed to encourage cohesion, collaboration and communication through a variety of musical team building exercises. The ‘conference choir’ was now well on the way to becoming an effective choral community of practice, and demonstrated their musical and social cohesion in a brief but rousing song share session.

Michael would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of the day, including Professor Stephanie Pitts, Claire Cooper and Liam Walker, Sarah Price and Lucy Dearn, the Institute of Musical Research, and all presenters and delegates.

‘The singing helped to keep the day energised and served as a reminder of why we were there! A really stimulating and enjoyable day’.