In this chapter we will look at some issues relating to different musical genres. We believe that conducting is conducting and that creating artificial distinctions between, for example, “orchestral” and “choral” conducting are unhelpful. After all, if you conduct an orchestra it is extremely likely that you will perform with a choir for some concerts and if you conduct a choir it is extremely likely that you will perform with an orchestra for some concerts! You can hear Simon Halsey on this subject in his interview in section 3.1 of this chapter.
Nevertheless, there are of course various aspects that are specific to different genres. You could perhaps think of this in terms of “training” a choir being different from “conducting” one. Especially if the singers are not professional, a degree of specialist knowledge will be beneficial.
Orchestras, bands and choirs of all kinds programme what we might call “jazz-influenced” repertoire. They often do it terribly! As a matter of course, many conductors will acquire detailed knowledge of performance practice as it relates to baroque, classical and increasingly Romantic repertoire. How many think to investigate whether the “jazz-influence” is early jazz, or swing, or bebop? In section 3.2 crossover specialist Clark Rundell explores this in fascinating detail with two expert players who are well-versed in the classical and jazz traditions.
Wind and Brass bands are the most popular form of community music making in many countries, and play a huge part in music education. In section 3.3 Michael Fowles gives an insight into the brass band world and Mark Heron writes about rehearsal topics specific to wind bands.
Rehearsing and conducting Opera is a potentially huge topic and one that we have decided not to delve into too deeply in ConductIT – at least for now! It’s also a little different in that unlike most other genres there isn’t a path through working with young musicians and amateurs to students and then professional ensembles. Traditionally, one studied to become a répétiteur, got a job in an opera house, learned to conduct in that environment, and gradually progressed up the career ladder conducting more and playing the piano less. This is now changing, and it is no longer unheard of for a conducting graduate to go straight into a conducting job without doing the hard graft of a répétiteur position. In section 3.4 Dominic Wheeler talks about coaching singers and the opera rehearsal process.
Finally, in section 3.5 Clark Rundell and Mark Heron discuss rehearsing new music and give some tips on working with composers before and during the rehearsal process.