Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
August 2020
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Master class with Simon Halsey

The TSO Chorus were privileged to be able to experience a master class day of rehearsals with Simon Halsey, who is a famous English choral conductor (he is Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, Artistic Director of the chorus of Palau de la Música Catalana, in Barcelona, and Conductor Laureate of the Berlin Radio Choir).

He had a real knack for being able to tease out small and big changes in what we were doing and how, and helped us to understand better the music and the text. (As someone who regards herself as moderately expert in the idea of “pedagogical content knowledge”—at least for mathematics education and, to a lesser extent, outdoor education—it is interesting to think about the PCK that he was exhibiting as a choral teacher!)

We spent the morning working on a couple of the movements from the St John Passion: dissecting, reassembling, interpreting, analysing, and improving it. It was surprising to me to spend so long on two relatively short numbers, but there was so much to learn and fine tune, and Simon Halsey is an engaging teacher with the capacity to help choristers know what he wanted and how to achieve it, and a raconteur’s gift for stories and anecdotes that made the whole music world become more alive and desirable.

In the afternoon we worked on parts of Faure’s Requiem, which the choir had performed earlier last year but which I hadn’t done in over 20 years and then as an alto (although I’d had a couple of runs through of the tenor line in advance of today’s practice), and went through a similar and enlightening process. There was a little chuffed-provoking moment when Simon complimented the tenors on one particular section and made particular reference to the two women tenors, who, he said, blended really well with the male voices … which really did make me feel good because I’d been very nervous about being in the front row!

Anyway, it was a really good day, and he had lots of highly complimentary things to say about the TSO Chorus and how well prepared we were. He also described us (and the members of similar choirs around the world) as “volunteer professionals”, since we do not get paid for our work but are expected and strive to perform as professional musicians.

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