Complicating leadership: choral conducting training through movement theatre practice

Daniel Galbreath, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (Birmingham City University)

Gavin Thatcher, Brunel University London

Music Performance Research ISSN 1755-9219
Vol. 10, 21-37
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, December 2020
Conductors are typically presumed to possess the physical, interpretative control in choral performance. Questioning that presumption, this article explores how student conductors might be encouraged to engage physically with the musical sound – and sounding bodies – of a choir. It argues that singers’ vocal performance directly and fruitfully impacts on a conductor’s gestural leadership. Borrowing techniques from established physical/movement-based performance and theatre, it explores how conductors might act as the embodied nexus of the poietic and esthesic dimensions of interpretation (Nattiez, 1990), thus collaboratively constructing a performance. To frame the discussion, a conceptualisation of the overlap between body and voice is set out. This conceptualisation emerged during the development of vocal-physical performance projects (2015-16) and was subsequently developed into a broader philosophical orientation. Focusing on issues of embodiment and empathy, this orientation is enlisted to re-examine choral conducting training practices. The influence of these explorations on Daniel Galbreath’s choral conducting teaching is outlined. Additional action-research with theatre practitioner and teacher Gavin Thatcher is then detailed to demonstrate further developments and disruptions to Galbreath’s practice. As a result, a conducting training practice emerges from these practical enquiries that exploits performers’ mutual, direct physical contact via sound.
choral conducting
physical theatre
conductor training
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