St John's College

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Pictures: Tom Dewar (LV Hodgson)

On Friday, 16 February, the St John’s College Music Department hosted two internationally acclaimed musicians who presented masterclasses to our College musicians.

Prof Norbert Salvenmoser, acclaimed professor in trombone and didactics at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg and director of the Musikschule Wattens in the Tyrol, presented a brass masterclass to Daniel Teeling Smith (LV Nash), Liam Batley (LV Clayton) and Jason Aspoas (LV Clarke) with all of our senior College brass players attending as spectators.

He gave them valuable advice on how to enhance the expressive aspects of their playing, and his main focus points were centred around good breathing and breath support, producing a smoother, more sensitive articulation and how good posture supports sound production and overall musical expression. All three participants were reminded about how important it is to have a relaxed, upright posture and to bring the instrument to them rather than contorting their necks/shoulders to accommodate the instrument. Two Austrian colleagues accompanied Prof Salvenmoser, and together, they demonstrated the baroque trombones (modern-day copies of 16th-century instruments) and gave a short performance and a mini-lecture and the performance practice associated with these instruments.

Prof Norbert Brandauer followed the session with the brass players with a most enlightening rehearsal with the singers of the Schola Cantorum. An internationally recognized virtuoso of the choir world and professor at Salzburg’s Mozarteum University and the University of Vienna, he introduced the vocalists to some new warm-up techniques in his calm and gentle manner. He spoke about the need to visualise and ‘feel’ sound before singing it. This included a close focus on the production of vowel sounds and the sense of phrasing and line in music. The Schola members were presented with excerpts of music by late 15th and early 16th century composers, among these being Palestrina, a first for the students. The combination of the brass instruments with the voices in the sinuous lines of this famous Renaissance composer was an ear- and an eye-opener for many. It highlighted the natural affinity between the brass and the human voice. This has given us much to think about as we plan a new repertoire for the choir here at the College. The only regret was that we had no time to continue exploring. The Schola members were grateful for the time allowed outside of academic lessons, and all look forward to putting what they learned into practice.

During lunch, we took our Austrian guests on a tour of the school, and they were impressed by our magnificent campus. Upon taking them to see our Memorial Chapel, Prof Brandauer remarked that it is “the heart of St John’s.” Like music, the most important things cannot be seen with the eye but with the heart.

We are humbled by these masters of their respective crafts sharing their musical expertise with St John’s College’s music students and look forward to further collaborations in the future. - Mr Hendri Liebenberg, Director of Music and Mr Cameron Upchurch, Choirmaster of the Schola Cantorum