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Testimonials

There are several reasons, why I have decided to participate in Eric Ericson Masterclass for young choral conductors in Haarlem.
Firstly, I could have been granted the unique opportunity to conduct two excellent choirs – Netherlands Chamber Choir and Netherlands Radio Choir. While being a conductor, who usually works with a semi-professional choir and having an opportunity to collaborate with choirs of the highest class even for a short term, I could think and explore such details and depths which are not accessible for my choir so far. My expectations were not overestimated: working with both choirs, Netherlands Chamber Choir and Netherlands Radio Choir, is very comfortable and pleasant at the same time, if a conductor is very well familiar with the scores. Choir members understand and have a snap reaction on conductor's requests and directions. Moreover, every member of these choirs is open and welcoming to the conductor's recommendations. In addition, working with the different types of choirs makes the whole process way more productive and pleasant for the conductor.
Secondly, I was very well aware how useful and interesting it would be to collaborate with two brilliant conductors and experienced pedagogues: Stephen Cleobury and Jos van Veldhoven .
I could only predict, how difficult it is to cope with the individual needs of each participant, explore and indicate on their strengths and weaknesses, while working on very versatile and complex repertoire.  I hope that all of us, young beginners, who frequently assume that we know everything about our profession, understood what was the main mission of our pedagogues – not to emphasize on their own talent and unlimited possibilities, but to facilitate the process of professional development of young conductors. Both of our teachers succeeded to achieve this goal and fulfilled their mission.

2009 Eric Ericson Masterclass by Archil Ushveridze

There are several reasons, why I have decided to participate in Eric Ericson Masterclass for young choral conductors in Haarlem. 

Firstly, I could have been granted the unique opportunity to conduct two excellent choirs – Netherlands Chamber Choir and Netherlands Radio Choir. While being a conductor, who usually works with a semi-professional choir and having an opportunity to collaborate with choirs of the highest class even for a short term, I could think and explore such details and depths which are not accessible for my choir so far.

My expectations were not overestimated: working with both choirs, Netherlands Chamber Choir and Netherlands Radio Choir, is very comfortable and pleasant at the same time, if a conductor is very well familiar with the scores. Choir members understand and have a snap reaction on conductor's requests and directions. Moreover, every member of these choirs is open and welcoming to the conductor's recommendations. In addition, working with the different types of choirs makes the whole process way more productive and pleasant for the conductor.

Secondly, I was very well aware how useful and interesting it would be to collaborate with two brilliant conductors and experienced pedagogues: Stephen Cleobury and Jos van Veldhoven .I could only predict, how difficult it is to cope with the individual needs of each participant, explore and indicate on their strengths and weaknesses, while working on very versatile and complex repertoire.  I hope that all of us, young beginners, who frequently assume that we know everything about our profession, understood what was the main mission of our pedagogues – not to emphasize on their own talent and unlimited possibilities, but to facilitate the process of professional development of young conductors. Both of our teachers succeeded to achieve this goal and fulfilled their mission. 

Last but not least factor of the effective masterclass was the effective coordination of the masterclass organizers. I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers of the Masterclass, whose concerns and contributions to the success of the course is appreciated by all participants.

Archil Ushveridze, Georgia 2009


2009 Eric Ericson Masterclass by Matthew Hamilton

The Eric Ericson Masterclass is a wonderful opportunity for any aspiring choral conductor. During the 2009 edition nine conductors from across Europe were taken out of our comfort zone, and invited to explore a wide range of repertory under the guidance of Stephen Cleobury and Jos van Veldhoven, both of whom enabled us to learn from their considerable knowledge and experience.

From the start it was clear that this would be music-making at a very serious level, not least because of the presence of the Netherlands Chamber Choir and Netherlands Radio Choir. The choirs were supportive of the conductors, and gave helpful and constructive criticism at the end of each session. Such feedback was very useful, as it is largely from the singers themselves that conductors can really learn what it is about their technique or approach that does or does not work. Combined with the intensive and in-depth preparatory work with Stephen Cleobury and Jos van Veldhoven, this approach allowed us to reflect critically on what were trying to achieve as musicians.

For me, the most impressive aspect of the masterclass was that, despite the great variety of technical approaches and musical opinions, a holistic approach to choir directing ran through the week: musical insight and interpretation went hand in hand with conducting technique and consideration for the singers. Time was also given to discuss rehearsal methods in a very practical way, an essential component in a class such as this with professional choirs.

Most pleasingly, the nine of us had the opportunity to develop a real sense of mutual support, camaraderie, and encouragement over the duration of the class. This constructive environment led to some wonderful moments of music-making, and a truly inspirational week.

Matthew Hamilton, UK, active conductor 2009


2007 Eric Ericson Masterclass by Florian Helgath

The Eric Ericson Masterclass 2007 certainly came up to my expectations; in fact, it exceeded them. The work we did with both teachers, Simon Halsey and Robert Sund, was most effective and instructive. What I particularly liked was the feeling of ‚togetherness’, of co-operation. Different approaches, interpretations and conducting techniques were tolerated, but afterwards the whole group would discuss what did or didn’t ‚work’. This way of doing things is very different from my tuition in Münich, and therefore I benefited from it greatly. The encouragement of individuality in every conductor is of great importance to me. To teach this way makes great demands on the teachers, because it is always simpler to impose a particular method, and yet Simon Halsey and Robert Sund succeeded in this magnificently.

The Masterclass also distinguishes itself by providing not only top-notch teachers, but also an ‚instrument’  which is one of the world’s best. Working with both choirs was immensely informative. On the one hand they were very friendly and gave us excellent suggestions and stimulus, but on the other hand they remained most professional. I thought that was very good. It’s not always good to wrap young conductors in cotton wool; their tuition should prepare them for the situation in which they are finally alone in front of a professional choir, and have the responsibility for a project. For me the Eric Ericson Masterclass was a decisive step in my choral conducting career to date.

Florian Helgath, active conductor 2007 


2005 Eric Ericson Masterclass by Mitos Andaya

From the first moment of the intense live audition to the final day of the masterclass, it is clear that everyone involved in the EEM is seriously and sincerely interested in the skills of the conductors and their development as leaders and complete musicians. The unique opportunity to work with the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Nederlands Kamerkoor and the two master teachers, Simon Halsey and André Thomas, amply demonstrates the distinction of this masterclass as does the caliber of conductors they seek from around the world to participate. This year, at the outset, we conductors knew that we were among exceptional company in a very special environment!

Throughout the 10-day course, expectations and demands remained high. The first three days consisted of piano rehearsals with the seven conductors, two master teachers and our fine pianist, Ben-Martin Weijand. In this intimate setting, the teachers were able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each conductor as he or she was called upon individually to conduct. In turn, we conductors were able to ask questions and grow accustomed to the different, yet complementary teaching styles of Mr. Halsey and Dr. Thomas. These initial days also allowed for analysis and discussion on the extensive list of repertoire and gave the master teachers opportunities to make suggestions to each conductor on specific problems which needed to be ironed out by the time the choirs arrived. Both Mr. Halsey and Dr. Thomas demonstrated their wealth of knowledge and experience, and openly shared their musicality with us, which, even when we were put on the spot, only inspired us to be better.

After the days of piano rehearsals came our chance to work with the first of the two professional choirs, the 80-voice Netherlands Radio Choir. In addition, 30 auditing conductors arrived from various countries to observe the rehearsals with the choir. Assignments were given to the conducting fellows a day in advance, so we had time to plan. However, these were subject to change and we were often asked to conduct at a moment’s notice to illustrate a particular point.

Each conductor was given the chance to rehearse a work or part of a work with the choir. With varying musical styles and only moments between the conducting fellows, we were put to the task of showing appropriate musical gestures, establishing our own rapport, and rehearsing effectively and efficiently at a professional level. As in any masterclass situation, the conductors were also challenged to take on the teachers’ instructions and adapt as quickly as possible. The comments from teachers and professional choir members were critical, honest and constructive. During the breaks between sessions, choir members approached conductors and candidly offered additional feedback. At the end of the day, the master teachers held a session with conductors and auditors to discuss and evaluate each of our approaches to our assignment with the choir. Observing conductors also contributed with helpful remarks and pertinent questions that promoted discussion and, on occasion, sparked healthy debate.

After two days with the Netherlands Radio Choir, 16 members of the Nederlands Kamerkoor arrived to work in a similar setting. We then had to deal with a different set of repertoire as well as the change in size, rehearsal pace and versatility of this small, expert group. The master teachers continued to work with us during these sessions, but also asked these professional singers for their comments and opinions regarding each conductor’s technique. The singers’ feedback was honest and very helpful as they seemed genuinely concerned and took their role in this course seriously.

A collegial camaraderie developed among our group of conductors, which is not always the case in a typical masterclass. As a result, we were able to draw on an enthusiasm and positive spirit, even in instances of stress or difficulty, and also glean new ideas from watching each other work.

On the final day of the course, the two choirs assembled for the dress rehearsal of the concert that was to be presented as part of the Koorbiënale, (a wonderful festival that features professional choruses and runs concurrent with the EEM). The concert assignments were given the day before, and the teachers allocated minutes of dress rehearsal accordingly. Within a short amount of time, we had to re-acquaint ourselves with the ensembles and make just a few specific points. For the most part, at this final stage, the master teachers left the conductor and choir to do what was needed and chimed in briefly on occasion.   

At the concert, Mr. Halsey and Dr. Thomas spoke to the audience about the concept of the EEM.  They introduced each work, explaining its unique challenges and reasons for its selection in the repertoire, and then presented the conductor of that work. The audience was therefore not only able to enjoy the music and beautiful sounds of the choirs, but also grasp the nature of these varied compositions, observe the individual styles of the conductors, and appreciate the value of the EEM as a whole. It was an exciting time and the whole process was exhilarating.

The Eric Ericson Masterclass is truly one of a kind. It offers conductors the chance to focus, refine and advance their skills in the best possible environment. This is a world-class experience that will prove to be continually influential and inspiring for conductors throughout their lifetime.

Mitos Andaya, Athens, Ga, USA, September 2005