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Interview: Chorus Master & Conductor’s Mindset under Richard Hockox CBE by Martin Hall

Martin discusses his time working as Chorus Master under Richard Hickox CBE, amongst others. Martin and Richard initially met as organists in London. There are also plenty of Simon Rattle stories in this interview! I always find Martin’s first-hand stories really fascinating and, as a conductor, Martin is someone I have always had huge admiration for as a choral director and orchestral conductor.

Enjoyment in Musical Learning

Martin begins by stressing that enjoyment was at a core of Hickox’s heart. Vaughan Williams, Delius and others inspired Hickox’s musical soul. Richard’s popularity, preparation and positivity shine through this interview. Martin also discusses what preparation means as a conductor, knowing scores inside out, singing all parts, listening to recordings, keeping eyes on the performers not just during performance or rehearsal, but when they arrived.

Instrumental and Singers Breathing

Martin discusses breathing both in directing singers and string players. He discusses the rapport that a good conductor has with his or her performers. He also discusses Hickox’s rehearsals as having an electric atmosphere.

Note Onsets and Singers Vowels

Martin points out that direct instructions about tempo, hard and soft attacks and so forth. Imagery helps, but as a conductor more specific direct instructions help unite an ensemble. Vowels are discussed as Martin’s starting point in his own choral directing. The five latin vowel sounds are always his starting point: me, eh, or, ah, oo. The avoidance of diphthongs units different singers. Correct breathing and uniform vowel sounds make you 80% there.

Singers Tone Colour

Martin extends this to considering tone colour by modifying vowels according to the era that a piece was written in, or, more specifically, their character. “The less you say in a rehearsal the better” in terms of the hand when conducting was a Hickox general rule so that when you did want to “say something” that subtle gestures say more. The lift of the beat and what you do before someone sings or performs are extremely important as well as movement between the beats.

The Inner Ear and Practising Conducting

Martin discusses hearing music in your head and how important this is for him. He then moves on to discuss practising conducting with live pianists to see how they respond, before moving to an actual rehearsal. Martin’s enthusiasm for music and for others that he admires of course shows through in his own work which is extremely professional, enthusiastic and of the very highest standard.

Conducting and Choral Directing

Dr Robin Harrison is an experienced choral director and orchestral arranger based in Teesside, UK, near North Yorkshire. He was trained by many leading choral conductors, most recently by Sue Hollingworth, Gramophone Choral Director of the Year 2010, a British Empire Medal winner.

Holistic Pop Vocal Coaching

Robin has worked extensively with a Nashville Vocal Coach for over 15 years and continues to channel his experience with the US Vocal Coaching scene through his pop vocal lessons both online and in Yarm, Teesside. His youngest pupil to achieve a pop vocals diploma was only 15 at the time and is now a professional vocal coach herself.

Classical Singing Lessons

Robin has studied under leading classical singing teachers including Deborah Catterall (former Musical Director for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain) and Penny Randall-Davis (Dramatic Coloratura Soprano, formerly soloist in Sydney Opera House, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera, Scottish National Opera and many more besides. He has a very creative approach to his own classical singing teaching.

Whether you are a professional vocalist, a beginner singing lessons student, someone seeking fun, a person singing to release emotions, if you wish to connect your emotions with your vocal tone and phrasing, are younger or older, please get in touch.

For individual, holistic pop, jazz, musical theatre and classical lessons in piano, singing, vocal coaching and organ, visit Lessons are available online or in person at my home study in Yarm, Teesside, UK, near Middlesbrough, Darlington, Stockton, Northallerton and around 1 hour from York, Durham, Sunderland, Leeds and Newcastle.

For pop vocals visit Pop Vocals Lessons For classical singing visit: Classical Singing Lessons.

Currently 25% off for the first lesson for new pupils. Dr Robin Harrison is a highly qualified, experienced, expert teacher.

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