internship

Katie McKinnon – Apprentice Conductor 2018/19

Katie was our apprentice conductor for 2018/2019. It was so nice to have her in the LVM community; she has a big personality and puts a lot of herself into the music she conducts. When she left she wrote us a letter highlighting her favourite parts of the year which you can read below. It was an absolute pleasure to have her on board and we wish her all the best in the future!

Dear Leeds Vocal Movement, 

I want to let you know how much I appreciated the opportunity to be your apprentice conductor last year through this wee blog post, and let you know some of my favourite things about LVM.

My favourite musical moment in LVM was conducting Northern Lights by Ola Gjello in the Christmas Concert 2018. I never saw myself as a “classical” conductor because most of my conducting experience before LVM was with popular, music theatre or a capella music. However when Caitlin asked me to choose which pieces I would like to conduct for the Christmas concert I was drawn to Northern Lights. The piece was inspired by Aurora Borealis (the northern lights) and is performed in Norwegian. Conducting this piece was difficult in terms of my conducting technique, there are several time signature changes and pauses and lots of dynamics, but by working with Caitlin in individual lessons and the choir member’s excellent musicality we pulled it off magnificently. I had lots of wonderful feedback from audience members. Northern Lights sounds like winter without sounding like Christmas and I appreciated the contrast with the other piece I conducted – Let it Snow – which sounds wonderfully like roast reindeer with a side of mistletoe. 

One of the biggest highlights of being a member of Leeds Vocal Movement is the social side – I was greeted with open arms by LVM and have made life-long friends (they helped me discover ale – I’m now a big fan). There are so many interesting people to meet out there, and us millennials can feel lonely and find it difficult to meet new people and make friends, but with LVM everyone is accepted and has a place. For example: I broke my ankle in January and only missed two rehearsals because choir members helped me get in and around Leeds in my wheelchair/crutches (big shout out to Dan – you are so kind and I miss our car chats! #folkislife). 

I was sad to leave LVM this year because of all the connections I had made and how much my artistry had grown and blossomed, but I got a dream job, so I moved to Essex. I am now the Learning and Participation Coordinator for a large concert hall called Saffron Hall. We have so many interesting musicians that visit, including Britten Sinfonia, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Sixteen just to name a few.  LVM set me in good stead for full-time work, through things like: regular meetings with Rosa, having to manage my own schedule, a formal but friendly application and interview process, and learning to communicate with lots of different people. I really enjoyed my time with LVM and learning new skills from Caitlin and although I’m not conducting at the moment, I am still singing, I have a job that I love, and I’m pretty proud of myself. 

Thanks for the laughs, miss you all.

Katie XOXO

internship, joining the choir, SATB choir

More Than Just Accompanying by Sylvia Jen

As a pianist, I have accompanied soloists, ballets, musicals, and various kinds of ensembles, but never an adult’s choir, only children’s or youth choirs. I was finally given the chance to accompany an adult’s choir when I was appointed the accompanist intern to Leeds Vocal Movement. And what a journey it has been!

I learnt many things during my time with the choir. The first major thing is seeing the Kodaly method in action, which Caitlin (our amazing choir conductor) uses to hone the skills of the choir to help them pitch and tune more accurately as a group. It works wonders as the choir became better at keeping in tune without the aid of the piano as the year went on. I knew about the Kodaly method and the Solfege system, but have never used it to learn or teach music. Working with LVM has opened my eyes to the benefits of the system, and I’ve started to apply some of Caitlin’s techniques in my own teaching (I teach piano to kids). Caitlin has been keen to offer advice as well which just goes to show the open sharing culture of this friendly choir community.

Secondly, I got better at sight-reading, particularly four-part and sometimes six-part choral music! Even though this is an unauditioned choir, the quality of singing and complexity of music is not lacking. Certainly, not all the music that we sing is highly complex, as we learn pieces from all kinds of genres. However, I did find that I was playing more complex music than I had done for youth choirs, which really pushed my boundaries and I’m grateful for the challenge.

Lastly, I learnt about all sorts of things that are non-music related as the choir members come from various backgrounds, some are musically trained, though most are not. This makes for really vibrant and interesting conversations, which one can always find at the weekly pub gatherings after choir rehearsals.

I love that this choir isn’t just about singing and performing choral music (and me accompanying that), but it’s a community of like-minded people that come together to learn, socialise, and enjoy music-making, and I’m so proud to be a part of that!