Bi-lingual Conducting: Connecting Voices and Instruments Through Culture Specific Vocabulary

Charles Hausmann

Monday, June 20, 8 AM
Meeting Room 336.A-B

Choruses and orchestras are two different cultures within the same performing art. To communicate in each, it is helpful to become fluent or at least conversant in the languages of both, connecting with a vocabulary that is familiar and congruent in both word and gesture. Few sources address this issue, which I will refer to as "bi-lingual" conducting.

Individuals who are bi-lingual are familiar with the inflections, accentuation, conventions, and gestural rhetoric of multiple cultures. Do we as conductors have this kind of natural connection with both chorus and orchestra? One is usually our second language.

In "Face to Face With An Orchestra," the authors admonish: "To confront an orchestra with confidence, one first must understand the instruments, and their standard ways of communicating with each other." Anthony Molina further states: "There are vital differences, (between choruses and orchestras) many of which are ignored or denied by some writers.” And, Robert Shaw has stated that orchestras need to sing and choruses need to play, suggesting a synchrony or “enculturation” needed between forces.

This session will identify these differences so that we can make informed choices using a culture specific vocabulary, verbal and non-verbal. Four differences will be explored: (1) the instrument, (2) the music, (3) the text, and (4) the vocabulary. Using excerpts from the repertoire, we will look at issues related to balance, articulation, phrasing and expression, to identify conducting tools that address the distinctive needs of voices and instruments, and the synchrony required for a collaborative performance.

Charles Hausmann has served as Professor of Conducting and director of the graduate choral conducting program at the University of Houston since 1985. His special interests are in the areas of conducting pedagogy, and choral/orchestral performance. As former Director of the Houston Symphony Chorus, Dr. Hausmann prepared and conducted the Chorus for more than 800 concerts, collaborating with many of the world's leading conductors in the United States, Mexico and Europe. In September 2014 he was named Conductor Emeritus. Also a career church musician, he is currently Director of Traditional Music at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Houston.