Gauteng Symposium: Choral Conducting Masterclasses with Professor Jeremy Silver

Professor Jeremy Silver delivering a choral conducting masterclass at the COMFESA Gauteng Symposium

At the recent COMFESA International Symposium in Gauteng, the choral conducting community was treated to a rare and enriching opportunity. Professor Jeremy Silver, Director of Opera UCT, led two choral conducting masterclasses that left a mark on all who attended, providing deep insights into the nuanced art of choral conducting.

The Artistry Beyond the Score

The first session saw Mpho, a rising talent in choral conducting, take the podium to lead the ensemble through “The Lord Gave The Word” from Handel’s Messiah. Professor Silver, with his insightful guidance, challenged Mpho and the attendees to think about the many choices a conductor faces: from interpreting the score to guiding the audience through the musical journey.  He emphasised the importance of the conductor’s artistry beyond the written notes. “There’s the score, and then there’s our artistry,” Silver noted, highlighting the conductor’s role in breathing life into the music. 

Silver touched on the importance of clarity and consistency in pronunciation, energy in every note, and the need for gestural communication. “As conductors, our job is to cause the best thing to happen just by gesture,” he said. He encouraged conductors to strive for clarity, intonation, and expressiveness with every note.

COMFESA choral conducting masterclasses FEATURE IMAGE
Sidwell Mhlongo and the Gauteng Symposium Choir at the choral conducting masterclass with Professor Jeremy Silver.

Collaborative Interpretation: Exchanging knowledge with conductor Sidwell Mhlongo

In a heartfelt and graceful transition, Programme Director Sidumo Nyamezele introduced renowned conductor Sidwell Mhlongo. Despite already being a well-known and accomplished conductor, Mhlongo signed up to receive Prof’s instruction during the next masterclass. Nyamezele praised Mhlongo’s openness to learning and continual improvement. He also highlighted the mutual benefit of such masterclasses for both clinicians and participants. 

Professor Silver’s session with Mhlongo emphasised the collaborative nature of baroque music. Silver discussed the period’s reliance on the performers’ interpretative decisions, and the co-creative role of the performer with the composer.

The Impact of Masterclasses: Fostering Excellence in Choral Conducting

Through these masterclasses, Professor Silver not only exchanged technical knowledge but also fostered a deeper understanding of the conductor’s role as an interpreter and storyteller. His emphasis on the balance between sticking to the score and personal artistry resonated with participants and audience members. This reinforces the notion that effective conducting is as much about communication and expression as it is about technique.

The COMFESA International Symposium once again proved to be a catalyst for learning, improvement and the pursuit of excellence in choral music. With the help of experts like Professor Silver, these masterclasses provide important insights for budding conductors. They remind them of the significant impact they can make with their artistry and talent.

Watch the masterclass on our Facebook page.

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