Throughout the four semesters, instruction in choral conducting is based on significant podium time with a variety of ensembles and choral repertoire. Students work regularly with the Bard Chamber Singers and the Bard Symphonic Chorus. In addition, they have the opportunity to conduct the Concert Chorale of New York, a professional chorus based in New York City.
All choral conducting students, first- and second-year alike, enroll in the same choral conducting seminar. In the first semester, using Josquin’s Missa Pange Lingua, Victoria’s Requiem, and selected Masses of Byrd and Palestrina as anchor works, students examine 15th- and 16th-century vocal music. Topics of discussion include analysis of counterpoint and text setting, performance practice, and liturgical function. At the end of the seminar, students prepare a practical performing edition of a motet or madrigal based on primary source material, and re-create an appropriate liturgical setting using motets and Mass settings from the period. The work of the second semester focuses on Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Britten’s War Requiem, and choruses from Adams’s Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. The works are examined in context with those of other composers and with special emphasis on text analysis, preparing a rehearsal schedule, and issues in concert programming.
The seminar of the third semester concentrates in detail, first, on Bach’s St. John Passion, with a special emphasis on musical structure and Baroque performance practices. The work is also studied in cultural, historical, and liturgical context. In the second half of the semester, each student prepares a detailed analysis of one of Haydn’s late Masses. The work of the fourth semester analyzes three major 19th-century requiem settings, by Berlioz, Brahms, and Verdi. Specific topics include performance practice, string bowings, and rehearsal plans. Works are studied in the context of the rise of amateur choral singing during this period, with a focus on the cultural and political implications of this development.