Sunday, 30 March 2014

Conducting Class Day 2

Sunday the 30th of March. After a good night sleep I felt much better and easier about the conducting course staring at 10 AM.

The first hours students were conducting Mozart, so I was practising to conduct my piece in an other room. Being a pianist I have very rarely played in an orchestra, which is of course a disadvantage when conducting. But my sister Jacintha as a flutist has sat in many orchestras. She has for instance been working for two years as a flutist in the 4 hour musical “Christina från Duvemåla” at Svenska Teatern (The Swedish Theatre) in Helsinki, so she sat and played about 2-4 times a week throughout the 4 hour performance for two years. Also while studying at the Sibelius Academy she has experienced playing in an orchestra conducted by various conductors, such as for instance Hannu Lintu, Atso Almila, Susanna Mälkki and Santtu-Matias Rouvali. So Jacintha was giving me very good advice on what to improve. She emphasized that technique actually doesn’t matter as much as feeling the music inside of you and expressing the feeling with your whole body language.

Me conducting my song cycle Dagbok with my sister Jacintha as soprano.
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

Today I felt my conducting went much better than yesterday.  (But when I afterwards looked at the video I could hardly see any difference… But at least it felt better!) Having written in large circles in my score for easier seeing whom to show in where made it much easier for me to conduct, so I actually managed today much more to look up at my musicians (and not only have all my attention in the score like yesterday). And then I also noticed that the musicians actually looked at me as well for knowing when to come in. (That made me wonder even more how the orchestra had been able to sound so okay yesterday, considering I forgot to show in almost everybody, so they just had to rely on their own counting.)

Finally remembering to look up at my musicians!
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

Showing in my sister Jacintha in the movement Stigar in my song cycle Dagbok
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

Showing the musicians to play softer. My sister Jacintha observing my conducting.
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

The orchestra had still quite much problems with playing in tune. As an inexperienced conductor I couldn’t really say why that was. There are many options, 1. The harmonies are difficult to get to sound good together (which would be the composers = my fault), 2. The musicians don’t know what to listen for, which means they have to hear the piece a few more times and play it through, and this will help getting in tune by it self throughout time, 3. The musicians are simply not listening and not paying attention to their tune, 4. The musicians haven’t practised and are simply playing out of tune. But to be able to tell which of these options it is, is actually quite hard. And of course everyone suspects always case number 1 to be the reason (while the composer often suspects case number 4…). But there is still next weeks practise before the concert, so we will see what will happen with the tune.

Conducting a big forte in the last movement of my song cycle Dagbok.
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

After the musicians had left at 15 o’clock, Juha Törmä gave us all conductors a few advices:
1. Think about your practise strategy before next weekend’s sessions with the orchestra, so that you can rehearse the orchestra as efficiently as possible.
2. Remember to use your voice so that even the clarinets and bassoons in the last row can hear you.

Juha Törmä showing me how to improve my beat.
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

To me Juha Törma said
Considering your freepulsative fourth movement “Stigar”: Remember always to breath everything you show you musicians. Use both hands for showing people in, as you are not conducting beats as it is freepulsative. If you use both hands, you control the musicians much better. But most practically for the musicians would be if you would have numbers in your freepulsative movement, so that you can show to the musicians where you are with you fingers. And remember that you always breath in a quartertone before showing in a musician, so that the winds (and everyone else) have time to take a breath before they play.
Juha Tömä waning me about lifting my elbow too much.
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

In the last movement “Jag vill” your hand wrist is jumping too much. In the beginning it was a bit better. Don’t bounce your hand, show it instead with a intensive movement. Begin the movement slightly more active. Show also the last beat of the piece like if you were on your way to a first beat which you just don’t beat. Remember to show in your musicians and to take care of all of them. Your tempo is varying much and your first beat is always a bit too late, as it has a longer way to travel, which you don’t seem to take into consideration. So that makes the orchestra slow down a bit the whole time, as your first beat is always a bit late. Pay attention so that your tempo keeps throughout the piece (if you want it that way).

Juha Tömä finally somewhat pleased with the result.
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. Photo by Simiam Ghan

And here are a few more comments Törmä said to the other students:
Student 1 conducting Mozart
It’s important that the orchestra get’s information about the next beat before you have beaten it. It’s difficult for the musician to phrase the music if you the whole time stop your beat slightly, you should instead show us the music and how it is phrased. It should the whole time be moving towards the next beat. If you jump up from the bottom of a beat it looks like you are trying to make an accelerando (trying to speed up). The preparing beat is one of the most important things you have to practise (a lot), learn to breath with you preparing beat.

Student 2 conducting Mozart
You started very well, but a bit further on you would need a bit more legato. Try with your movement to make an as beautiful legato as possible. Yesterday you conducted everything only from the stick and it was too much (too little body language), but today it’s too little conducted by the stick. In Cherubino only the first note is forte and the rest of the bar is piano, so just put much less speed in the beat after the first beat. And you could get the orchestra better to follow you if your movement would be more round.

Student 3 conducting Mozart and Damström’s Dagbok
Although you are moving your arms, the end of the stick is hardly moving. Make sure the stick is like an extension of your hand, which helps us read your hands better. You should try to provoke legato with your hands, so don’t bounce too much away from the beat. Don’t only stare at the notes. Practise until next week your beat so that your movement is more even. Practise how you prepare a beat, so that once again the winds can breath with your beat. As a conductor you constantly have to prepare.

In Damström you beat are quite unclear, so maybe a bit clearer movement from side to side so that they know what beat you are at. If your nuance can’t be smaller in you right hand then you can use your left hand for showing a smaller nuance. Don’t turn too much away from the cellos (when you show in the singer) because the cellos can’t any more see you beat, especially as you conduct with your left hand. Practise before next week to beat different nuances (from forte to piano) together with a metronome so that you keep exact rhythm. 

Tuomas Kettunen conducting my song cycle Dagbok.
Sunday 30.3.2014 at Pirkanmaa Pinna's conducting course. © C.Damström

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