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Sing Schubert!

January 10, 2009 2:00 pm
January 10, 2009 12:00 am
St Patrick’s Church Board School   View map



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Event Details

The Belfast Music Society, in collaboration with TOSINI (Teachers Of Singing in Ireland), presented a series of two masterclasses for young local singers with renowned mezzo-soprano Colette McGahon. Local accompanists Gail Evans and Daniel O’Neill were in attendance.

The Junior Masterclass featured singers aged between 15-18; the Senior Masterclass featured singers aged between 19-24. Each selected singer prepared a Schubert song in German for the masterclass, and a number of the participants were offered the opportunity to perform in a special ‘Coffee Concert’ as part of the BMS International Festival of Chamber Music 2009.


These events were generously supported by the Esme Mitchell Trust

Colette McGahon

The Irish mezzo-soprano Colette McGahon started her professional career with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, where her roles included that of Carmen, a part she also undertook for the touring company Opera 80. Solo recitals have included appearances at the Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank and for the BBC and Irish radio and television. Her interest in contemporary music has resulted in her undertaking challenging roles in works by composers such as Berio and Dallapiccola, and her versatility is demonstrated by her success in her one-woman A Little Late Night Music, based on the songs of Stephen Sondheim.


Junior Masterclass
Saturday 29th November 2008, 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm
St Patrick’s Church Board School, Donegall Street, Belfast
Free Admission


The 2008/09 ‘Sing Schubert!’ vocal masterclass project, run by BMS in collaboration with Tosini, got off to a great start on Saturday 29 November. After a bracing vocal warm-up for everyone (including audience members!) led by Tosini’s Marie O’Sullivan, Irish Mezzo Colette McGahon put seven young singers through their paces in some of Schubert’s most well-loved lieder. “Don’t forget: these were poems before they were songs,” she cautioned, stressing the importance of understanding the text, and guiding the singers through the intricacies of accurate German pronunciation. The afternoon was full of humour, warmth, encouragement, and a wealth of technical tips from Colette’s vast experience as a performer and teacher. Seven lovely, and very individual young voices blossomed during the afternoon, and all the participants were given a store of valuable advice to work with over the coming weeks and months. The singers were Julia Clarke, Mairead O’Neill, Sarah Nelson, Peter Lyness, Sarah Armstrong, Susan Graham and Chris McGuigan, ably accompanied by Elizabeth Bicker and Daniel O’Neill.
Many thanks to all involved in the organisation of the masterclass, and to the singing teachers who prepared their students so well.


Senior Masterclass
Saturday 10 January 2009, 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm
St Patrick’s Church Board School, Donegall Street, Belfast
Free Admission


It was with immense anticipation that teachers and students gathered in St. Patrick’s School, Belfast for the second ‘Sing Schubert!’ Masterclass with Colette Mc Gahon.

After throwing ourselves into the vocal warm ups, beautifully led by Marie O’ Sullivan, we were ready for action! Much was learned in the Junior Masterclass, notably the importance of text, both understanding of and correct pronunciation. Indeed this was revisited frequently in the senior class, with not so much emphasis on pronunciation (with the exception of the Northern Irish penchant for doing ‘funny’ things with ‘u’) but on the deeper meaning of the poetry.

The class began with Kirsty Mc Kay singing Ganyemed. Work was done with Kirsty on focus and on how the audience relies on the presence and presentation of singer and accompanist to become involved in the musical experience. Second to sing was Leanne Daly with Liebesotschaft. Colette worked with Leanne on producing a strong core sound and on the need for careful balance between singer and accompanist, especially when the music is marked piano. True understanding of the text was revisited with Mary Mc Cabe’s performance of Du bist die Ruh. Aine Darnbrook concluded the first half of the masterclass with the beautiful Erlafsee. Colette touched on many areas here, including concentrating on vocal weightings on various beats in a 6/8 time signature.

After a refreshing cuppa we resumed with Sarah Richmond’s performance of Gretchen am Spinnrade. Colette focused on the need to gauge the emotional levels effectively in this lied, so as to truly evoke Goethe’s spirit. Marcella Walsh followed with An die Musik. Colette worked with Marcella on her tendency to sway as she sang. The need for gentle final vowels was explored and also on how the fact that sung German is different to spoken German, hence the need for forward placement of ‘r’ and ‘ch’ sounds. The masterclass concluded with Maeve Duddy’s performance of Die Junge Nonne. A question of balance arose here again between singer and accompanist. The many different moods in this lied were explored and suggestions were made on the possibility of using less vibrato for colour, for example, in the line“und finster die Nacht, wie das Grab!”.

Sheila Sloan, chair of BMS was invited to speak at the end. Accompanists Elizabeth Bicker and Danny O Neill were thanked for their intrinsic participation. Tosini were thanked for organising the event and everyone was invited to the Coffee Concert in the Harty Room, at Queens on Sat. 31st January 2009 at 11.30am at which selected singers will be asked to perform the songs that they studied with Colette.

What a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, in the presence of such romantic spirits and a skilled, knowledgeable practitioner guiding us along the way.

Thank you Colette for such an inspirational class!

Mairéad Duffy
Chair of TOSINI



Coffee Concert
Saturday 31 January 2009 – Harty Room, QUB Music Building,
Coffee from 11 am. Concert starts 11.30 am sharp
Tickets: £5.00