Members of university choirs Dunelm Consort and Chamber Choir were treated to a workshop hosted by vocal ensemble in residence, EXAUDI. Specialising in both contemporary and early music, EXAUDI have carved out a niche for themselves in the UK and beyond, gathering rave reviews for their most recent CD in national press.
Directed by James Weeks, Assistant Professor of composition in the Music Department, EXAUDI also features the tenor voice of David de Winter, who studied music at St Cuthbert’s Society, 2006-2009, later going on to study at the Royal Academy of Music. David (below, middle) had the following to say about the emerging vocal talents of Dunelm Consort and Chamber Choir:
“I thoroughly enjoyed assisting the students with their madrigal projects. There is clearly an abundance of vocal talent at the university and I was very impressed with their ability to work with new ideas, their sound and also their receptiveness. What struck me the most was that the whole thing was student-led. I hope the masterclass helped them a little and I have no doubt that their respective concerts will be resounding successes.”
Reflecting on the workshops, Chamber Choir and Dunelm Consort members Lucy Evans and Eleanor Hunt were full of praise for David and Tom Williams, also of EXAUDI, singing alto.
“Not only did David and Tom greatly help and inspire the consorts on developing the music itself, but they were also particularly helpful in bringing each group together as one unity, rather than 5 individual singers! It was an amazing opportunity to work with such amazing and renowned singers and the masterclass allowed us all to improve the quality of our performances.” – Lucy Evans (Chamber Choir and Dunelm Consort member)
“The masterclass with David and Tom of EXAUDI was exceptionally helpful. To work with musicians who not only know madrigals so well, but knew our specific pieces in such detail was incredible. They added a depth of emotion to our performances which we wouldn’t have found without them and have given us so much inspiration for the rest of our programme.” – Eleanor Hunt (Chamber Choir and Dunelm Consort Manager).
Besides working with student performers, the whole of EXAUDI also worked on five student compositions, by composers working in the music department. Students enrolled across all three years of the undergraduate music course, or on any postgraduate composition course, are given the opportunity to write for multiple high-profile performers and ensembles, and, as an ensemble in residence, EXAUDI have been offering workshops for quite a number of years now. The pieces workshopped, written by five of Durham’s most advanced student composers, were written in a wide range of styles, representative of the diverse specialities of contemporary music-making in Durham. Student composer Samuel Read said of the day “it was a really useful workshop. I’m not really a choral Composer so it was useful having their expertise. They all have really distinct voices, but still manage to blend well when the writing requires them to.” His piece Darkness was worked on, and Samuel has been kind enough to put together a video-score of his piece, so you can hear the results of the workshop, the link to which is at the end of this article.
Benjamin Harris, studying for his MA in composition, added “Exaudi took to the challenge of extended spoken text vocabulary with unparalleled enthusiasm”, whilst Megan Cunnington (3rd year music) said “I’ll also add that I found it super useful, and lovely to hear my piece performed with such professionalism and enthusiasm. Their feedback was very thoughtful and constructive, and really helped!”. Sophie Nolan, also a 3rd year music student, agreed, saying “I just thought they were really professional and friendly, and gave clear and intuitive advice. Also, their sight-reading was phenomenal…my piece was so difficult for both rhythm and pitch and they still managed to convey to me roughly how it would sound.”
If this has inspired you to hear the labours of the student vocalists, there are a number of concerts you can attend this term (details at the bottom of the article). EXAUDI’s visits are a treasured facet of the musical life of Durham, and we look forward to welcoming them back for more workshops and concerts next year.
David de Winter: www.daviddewinter.co.uk/
Samuel Read, Darkness: shorturl.at/cezNX
Dunelm Consort: www.musicdurham.org/dunelm-consort-and-players/
Dunelm Consort: Gesualdo and Monteverdi Madrigals; 6th of March at 7pm in the Chapter House. Link: www.musicdurham.org/event/dunelm-consort/