Berkshire Choral Festival

So much to learn!

Berkshire Choral Festival classes and lectures are taught by professional faculty and music staff. Learn music history, theory, vocal technique, how to audition, how to care for your voice, and much more. In addition, private voice, theory, ear training, and conducting lessons are available on a fee basis.

You will learn new things no matter which BCF venue you choose, but know that only our home campus in Sheffield offers the full complement of classes listed below (every week, unless noted otherwise). There are similar options at our other locations, just fewer in each category.

2013 classes and lectures

Click on the category that interests you, or just scroll down for the full list.

Techniques of music: voice and diction

* KEEPING YOUR VOICE SHINY AND NEW

SEVERAL FACULTY

We all aspire to keep our voices healthy, vibrant, and free, but environmental and age-related factors can make the task harder when we’re no longer 20. This discussion-based class reviews pillars of vocal technique, describes the way age influences the voice, and offers concrete tools that enable all of us to keep our voices in peak condition. *Recommended for all choristers, especially those over 70.

FRENCH DICTION

FRANK NEMHAUSER

Master the French pronunciation of the Bizet. (Week 3 only)

I COULD USE SOME SUPPORT HERE

ORY BROWN

This class is a chance for choristers to learn about two of the “biggies” in vocal technique: how to breathe for singing, and how to use the air to support their voice. This class is a “learn-by-doing” class that features a step-by-step process for discovering quiet, full, effortless breathing, and steady, flexible support for singing. Suitable for singers, conductors and teachers. (Weeks 3-4 only)

ITALIAN DICTION

FRANK NEMHAUSER

Master the Italian pronunciation of the Puccini and Verdi. (Week 3 only)

LEARNING THE IPA

MELISSA ATTEBURY

This class will provide an introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet and its symbols. We will examine how certain sounds are created and explore why this tool is a choral musician’s greatest asset, especially when singing texts in foreign languages. 

Techniques of music: theory and sight-reading

We’re really excited, after having heard from a number of you that you’d like more sight-reading and theory course options, to “debut” our four redesigned classes in this area. We hope that you’ll think about which level would be right for you and take advantage of whichever topics best suit your needs.

FUN WITH KEY SIGNATURES

KATHARINE DAIN, PATRICK WATERS

Have you always wanted to learn, or review, the building blocks of music notation and music theory? Understanding and remembering the key signatures and the circle of fifths will make you a more confident choral musician.

I GOT RHYTHM

FRANK NEMHAUSER

This class begins with a review of rhythmic notation, then quickly progresses to sight-reading complex rhythms. We’ll make use of the works of the week as we consider their rhythmic joys and challenges.

SING ANYTHING WITH INTERVALS!

MELISSA ATTEBURY

An exciting exploration of interval-singing techniques that will improve your ability to sing music at sight and detect and correct errors on your own. When you know the intervals, you can sing even atonal music, learning your part without a piano. Guaranteed to make you every conductor’s favorite chorister!

WHAT’S MY CHORD?

SEAN TAYLOR

Once you’ve mastered key signatures, then you’re ready for “What’s my chord?” In this class, we will look at chord progressions in common keys and get you to that magical stage where you can look at a piece of choral music, see which pitches the different choral voices are singing at any given moment, and understand what chord you’re singing together and therefore what scale degree you’ve got! You’ll understand music more deeply and feel more confident in your own part. 

Workshop/discussion

ANALYZING HISTORICAL RECORDINGS

KATHARINE DAIN

This class will discuss recording technology and how it’s developed, as well as consider performances from the earlier parts of the twentieth century. We will be able to discuss changes in performance practice and vocal technique over time, making use of examples from the composer of the week. (Weeks 1-2 only)

COMMON VOCAL ISSUES FOR CHOIRS

KATHY FITZGIBBON

Often, when choirs have difficulty with rhythm, intonation, or tone, the cause is a vocal issue rather than an ensemble issue. Learn some of the most common difficulties that choirs, and individual choral singers, face and the vocal ways to fix them. (Week 1 only)

EURHYTHMICS

SEAN TAYLOR

Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a learning system that incorporates movement with music, is a wonderful way to heighten your inner sense of musical pulse. The class will offer on-your-feet participation to strengthen the relationship between our intellectual and physical perceptions of music occurring through time. The movement aspect of the class is simple but vital to grasping the concepts, so be ready to be up on your feet. (Weeks 3-4 only)

HISTORICALLY INSPIRED PERFORMANCE

JEFF GROSSMAN

Most of the music we perform today was written at least a century ago. How do we bridge the large gap between our own world and the composer’s? What do we mean when someone says the performance is “historically informed”? We will discuss performance issues of style, notation, and interpretation, and ways in which we as modern performers can try to better understand the music we perform. (Weeks 1-2)

OOOOOH, IT’S SO MODERN!

JEFF GROSSMAN

Come for a listening and discussion session featuring some examples of contemporary choral music -- the familiar, the weird, and perhaps the awful! We’ll talk about how to relate to and experience this music as audience members or as choristers. (Weeks 1-2)

RELAXING THOSE PERFORMANCE NERVES

FRANK NEMHAUSER, ORY BROWN

Do your nerves sometimes get the best of you? Are you one of those people who can nail the music in rehearsal, yet make inane musical mistakes in performance? Perhaps you have a touch of the PERFORMANCE ANXIETY SYNDROME! Come learn some basic relaxation techniques which can make performance night much more enjoyable (and perhaps help you maintain calm in other stressful situations as well).

Music history

COMPOSER OF THE WEEK

RICHARD GIARUSSO AND KATHY FITZGIBBON

We will explore the life and music of Beethoven (Week 1), Verdi (Week 2), and Haydn (Week 4). Each week, we look at the biography of each composer for clues about the inspiration for the music. Musical selections from different periods in the composer’s life will be integrated into a lively discussion of what made that composer tick. (Please note that the other composers, in weeks 3 and 4, will be discussed in detail in other courses those weeks.)

MUSIC IN THE NAZI ERA

KATHY FITZGIBBON

Music played a major role in Germany in the Third Reich, from nationalist propaganda on a monumental scale to attempts at political subversion. The Nazis capitalized on the German people’s love of music and on existing musical traditions by supporting music education, promoting music in the homes, sponsoring music festivals, and commissioning composers to write choral cantatas and other major works for holidays and even the Olympic Games. Learn of examples of musicians affected by the Nazis and their Reich Music Chamber, including new research conducted by Kathy in Germany this spring. (Week 2 only)

ROMANTIC OPERA HISTORY

KATHY FITZGIBBON

The nineteenth century saw major developments in opera, from the bel canto era to Wagner’s music drama to the verismo styles of Mascagni and Puccini. Learn how the operatic composers of week 3 fit into the broader historical trends in Romantic opera composition, as well as the nationalist political movements occurring simultaneously. (Week 3 only)

THE SYMPHONY AFTER BEETHOVEN (2-SESSION CLASS)

RICHARD GIARUSSO

What did Brahms learn from Beethoven? How did Berlioz influence the style of Gustav Mahler? What makes Bruckner’s symphonies “Wagnerian”? What did Mahler think of the Schumann symphonies? How are Schubert’s talents as a composer of song evident in his symphonies? Learn the answers to these questions and more in a 2-part introduction to the nineteenth-century symphony. With a focus on a select group of seminal works, we will consider the dual nature of these symphonies both as timeless works of art and as products of the place and time in which they were written. Session 1 will focus on late Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, and Schumann. Session 2 will concentrate on Brahms, Bruckner, and Mahler. (Week 1 only)

WEIMAR ON THE PACIFIC

RICHARD GIARUSSO

During the 1930s, a diverse group of artists and intellectuals from central Europe found an unlikely place of refuge in southern California. Arnold Schoenberg, Thomas Mann, Theodor Adorno, Franz Werfel, and Fritz Lang, to name but a few, formed an extraordinary emigré community that came to be known as “Weimar on the Pacific.” With a special focus on Mann’s Doctor Faustus, the touchstone work of German exile culture in America, this course offers an introduction to the life and work of some of the most remarkable creative talents of the last century. (Week 2 only)

Participatory classes

BREATH WORK AND YOGA STRETCHING CLASS

CARLY GREENWOOD

Breath work is the life force of yoga. Learn to be more aware of your breath, coupled with some easy yoga stretches drawing upon the yoga asanas. This class is available to all levels and abilities. The goal is to make it your own practice. Carly is a registered nurse, licensed massage therapist, and now a student yoga instructor.

CLASSICS A CAPPELLA

NOAH LINDQUIST

An introduction to the entertaining pastime of singing music we usually don’t. We will sight-sing vocal arrangements of familiar instrumental music by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and others. Confident musicianship, enthusiasm or sense of humor suggested. (Weeks 3-4)

MASTER CLASSES FOR SOLO CHORISTERS

SEVERAL FACULTY

Perfect for the church, community, beginning or professional soloist looking to hone his/her skills in a supportive performance setting. If you are interested in participating in this class, please sign up Monday morning in the Rehearsal Hall. You’ll want to bring solo music to BCF in order to take part in this exciting class.

NAME THAT COMPOSER!

NOAH LINDQUIST

Test your knowledge of composers and musical style in this team-based game. Audio excerpts may be both familiar and obscure. (Week 3 only)

SINGING CHANT “A LA MODE”

JASON McSTOOTS

For the early music lovers, this class will provide a chance to sing haunting medieval chant melodies while learning about chant notation, modes, and intonation in the chant context. (Weeks 3-4 only)

SING YE SOME MADRIGALS

KATHY FITZGIBBON, SEAN TAYLOR

Come one, come all, and sing ye some madrigals – from the sublime to the bawdy! Sight-read through a selection of favorite madrigals by some of the greatest composers of the Renaissance. 

Performance classes

APPRENTICE VOICE MASTER CLASS

Come watch our talented vocal apprentices receive valuable coaching on voice and performance technique from master teachers, to be announced each week.

THE SONGS AND ARIAS OF HAYDN LECTURE/RECITAL

KATHY FITZGIBBON, MELISSA ATTEBURY, AND NOAH LINDQUIST

Franz Joseph Haydn may be best known for his extensive contributions to symphonic, string quartet, and choral repertoire, but he was also a prolific composer of art songs and operas. Come hear some of these lesser-known gems to appreciate anew Haydn’s brilliance. (Week 4 only)

BEETHOVEN LECTURE/RECITAL

KATHARINE DAIN, DANIEL NEER, AND JEFF GROSSMAN

Take a breather from the intensity of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis to experience a rich and diverse concert of colorful works for the voice. From settings of folk songs to An die ferne Geliebte, rarely heard Italian duets to songs from Goethe’s Faust, this program offers both favorites and rarely heard gems of Beethoven that herald the great age of vocal romanticism and the German Lied. (Week 1 only)

OPERA IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY LECTURE/RECITAL

(MELISSA ATTEBURY, JASON McSTOOTS, AND NOAH LINDQUIST

We’ll perform arias and duets from some of the nineteenth century’s most notable operatic composers. You’ll learn about significant compositional styles through listening to some of the great moments in opera. (Week 3 only)

PERSECUTION IN THREE-QUARTER TIME: POPULAR MUSIC IN VIENNA AND THE ANSCHLUSS (LECTURE/RECITAL)

MELISSA ATTEBURY, DANIEL NEER, AND JEFF GROSSMAN

The vastness of the Jewish experience in Vienna is perhaps most evident in its relationship to the popular musical culture prevalent in its ubiquitous coffee houses and theaters. Enjoy a unique performance of opulent waltzes, sentimental pop music and frothy operetta as we explore the zenith of this rich music style in contrast to the plight of Jewish (and some non-Jewish) Viennese composers. Music includes songs of Oscar Straus, Edmund Eisler, Leo Fall, Emmerich Kalman, Franz Lehar and Robert Stolz. (Week 2 only)

SCHUBERT’S LIFE AND LIEDER LECTURE/RECITAL

JASON McSTOOTS AND NOAH LINDQUIST

In his short but brilliant 31-year life, Franz Schubert composed more than 600 Lieder, 12 symphonies (five of which were not completed), and huge numbers of chamber and piano works. Learn about Schubert’s life and hear live performances of some of Schubert’s most important and beautiful Lieder. (Week 4 only)