What is the Vaughan Williams Project?
The Vaughan Williams Project is a song performance course for adult amateur and professional singers and pianists aged 30 or older who would like to improve their interpretive, collaborative, and performance skills as part of an intensive course on Ralph Vaughan Williams’s songs for voice and piano.
Led by instructors Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, and taught over a series of weekends in between mid-March and mid-May, 2018, the course is run as a joint project between the Victoria Conservatory of Music and the SongArt Performance Research Group (UK), a research arm of the Institute for Musical Research at the University of London.
Culminating in three concerts on the last weekends in May, the Vaughan Williams Project offers singers, pianists, and non-performing auditors the chance to take part in a unique joint performance project exploring the music, poetry, and performance tradition of the songs of one of the finest composers of the twentieth century.
Collaborative work is a key component of the Vaughan Williams Project. The course will teach students about Vaughan Williams’ song cycles as a works of poetry and music, but it is also designed to go deeper into his cycle as a reflection of the intimate and convivial performing tradition that supports it. The project is thus more than simply a course leading to a performance of an important piece; it also affords participants unprecedented insight into the intimate and intriguing collaborative relationship between pianist and singer that lies at the core of the song repertoire for voice and piano.
How does it work?
The Vaughan Williams Project achieves this balance between instruction and exploration by placing collaborative performance at the heart of the course.
Our students include performing singers and pianists, understudy singers and pianists, and observers. Each type of student plays an important role in the project, whether as part of a performing pair, as a member of an understudy partnership, or as an engaged audience member and classmate who provides receptive listening and commentary to both the students and instructors throughout the course.
Singer-pianist duos are the cornerstone of the project. All performers and understudies will be paired with a number of partners to form singer-pianist duos that will work together to explore Vaughan Williams’ songs within collaborating partnerships, as would have been common among amateur musicians during the composer’s lifetime.
Each student will work on between two and six songs over the course of the project, exploring these both as individuals in their private sessions, and with their duo partners in both private coachings and group sessions.
The majority of our work together will take place in group sessions, which are timetabled for Saturday or Sunday afternoons from mid-March to mid-May 2018. Group sessions include Performance Classes, Interpretation Classes, Seminars, Workshops, and Faculty Open Rehearsals, all of which are attended by performers, understudies, and observers. (See links on the right of this page for more information about individual elements.)
Singer-pianist duos will take a number of private Duo Coachings with Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, where they will work with each instructor separately to explore the intricate and intimate settings of their songs from the perspective of a collaborative pair. Additionally, each student will attend a number of private Solo Coachings with Kathryn Whitney (singers) or Anna Cal (pianists), at times to be arranged to suit mutual timetables.
The course finishes with three Final Concerts – two Final Student Concerts and one Final Faculty Concert. The Final Student Concerts will feature a full performance of three of Vaughan Williams’ song cycles. Each student will perform between two and four songs as part of joint performance of the piece.
The Final Faculty Concert, which follows the week after the student concerts, repeats the same program. It is a chance for student to hear their teachers performing the repertoire with which they have become so familiar. It is also a showcase of how collaborative musical instruction is, and highlights how much the instructors have learned from their students while teaching this intensive course.
For further information about each aspect of the course mentioned above, please see the ‘Course Elements’ listings on the right-hand side of this page.
To read about the repertoire, see the Songs page.
Performance Classes are group coaching sessions in which students perform for their fellow students, and the instructors coach them on their interpretation, presentation, pianism, diction, vocal production, and musicianship. Performance Classes give students the opportunity to explore their pieces through live performance, finding their way into and through the songs and poetry guided by their own creative instincts and musical abilities. Each Performance Class is jointly coached by Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal to give students equal attention and feedback. The Performance Classes are organized to accommodate three full presentations of the repertoire from the final concerts, which is studied in the order it will be performed.
Solo & Duo Coachings
Faculty Open Rehearsals
The Vaughan Williams Project is a course, but it is also a ‘reflective performance project’ – that is, a course during which the instructors are learning while they are teaching, and one in which they are themselves rehearsing for a performance of the full recital program under investigation.
Faculty Open Rehearsals are a key part of the ‘reflective performance’ aspect of the project. These sessions offer students unprecedented access to their instructors in rehearsal, providing them with the opportunity to watch professionals at work (and to comment on the process) in an area of their music-making that students normally never see.
The reflective performance aspect of the project is being overseen by the SongArt Performance Research Group (UK), of which Kathryn Whitney is a co-director.
The Omnibus is an informal evening for students and staff during which each student performs all the pieces he or she has been working on during the course. The Omnibus falls after the completion of the formal instruction, but before the dress rehearsals and Final Student Concerts. It is a convivial evening when we all get the opportunity to be together and to hear each other again, but it also serves as a chance for students to run through their pieces in an informal performance atmosphere in advance of the final concert week.