Alongside the chamber groups, students also participate in workshops exploring composition and related topics. For many years, composer Melanie Daiken, herself a student of Olivier Messiaen led the study of masterpieces such as Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Strauss’ Elektra. Guest lecturers have also included composer Hilda Paredes who encouraged her classes to write and perform their own music, jazz saxophonist Luca Stoll teaching four part harmony, Crispin Woodhead introducing Rhetoric and silent film expert Pamela Hutchinson exploring the world of early cinema.
Each day of the course when Alasdair Beatson has been coaching he has presented a pre-lunch session under the umbrella title of ‘Alasdair’s Harmonies’. A very wide variety of music has been covered ranging from Happy Birthday through to Bach fugues, Brahms, Faure, Schumann, Wagner and Barber each illustrating an aspect of harmony occurring in different contexts. Uses of certain chords, cadences or modulations are all examined as if they were favourite ingredients in the kitchen of a great chef, prepared in irresistibly mouth-watering ways. Harmony informs every choice we make in interpreting music and the more information and experience we have of the different harmonic ‘flavours’ the more skilled we become in our musical cuisine.
Early Music Workshops
Highlights of the Early music workshops have included Jonathan Manson and William Hunt introducing all the string players on the course to learning the viola da gamba. Each student picked up a viol for the first time in their lives on the first day of the course, learning a whole new bowing technique and way of holding the instrument, reading in different clefs, and by the end of the week were able to play some 17th century four and six part consort music together. This was further enhanced by learning about Baroque dance and on other occasions William Hunt and Frances Norbury introduced everyone to dancing minuets, sarabandes and pavans. This summer, distinguished harpsichordist Nicholas Parle will introduce everyone to learning about different tuning systems and other fascinating aspects of playing and appreciating 17th century music.