On Saturday Oct. 29, the British Choral Group Voces8 met with BYU’s Concert Choir in a Masterclass as part of the BRAVO! Performing Arts Series.
Centered on stage, Voces8 stood in front of BYU’s Concert Choir to discuss individuality and heart within music and how singers can learn to balance it all with technique. This visit marks the group’s third visit to BYU following two previous sold-out performances.
Voces8 was brought to BYU by the BRAVO! Professional Performing Arts Series. The BRAVO! Series brings in professionals from around the world for performances and masterclasses. Masterclasses give students the chance to meet with experts, ask questions and learn directly from world-renowned performers.
Voces8 is an internationally acclaimed British choral group that tours worldwide, frequently performing up to 100 concerts per year. Established in 2005, Voces8 strives to share their talents with the global community with a foundation that ensures “Music Education For All.”
“It meant so much to me to see how kind and encouraging they were, and how they taught true principles and encouraged choir members to do the work to apply them personally, said Lyndsay Keith, producer of the BRAVO! Series. “We’re all on the same team in this choral world, and it was meaningful to see the Voces8 members treat the Concert Choir members like peers,” said Keith.
Voces8 opened the masterclass by singing a rendition of “Straighten Up and Fly Right” by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills the Andrews Sisters, followed by a traditional piece of Renaissance polyphony, “Haec Dies” by William Byrd. Voces8 then gave their time and attention to listening and giving feedback on the Concert Choir.
Voces8 member and creative director Barnaby Smith discussed how Voces8 frequently hears quality choral music and how impressed they were with the Concert Choir’s level of performance. In echoing a phrase from the Concert Choir director to Voces8, Smith told the Concert Choir, “you are really good, but I think you know that.”
Encouraging comments such as Smith’s meant a lot to Concert Choir singers like Alyssa Van Wagenen, who has followed Voces8’s music for a long time. Van Wagenen described how this masterclass in particular moved her.
“Voces8 is one of my biggest inspirations,” said Van Wagenen. “I grew up listening to their music.”
This is Van Wagenen’s first semester participating in Concert Choir, and she appreciated how Voces8 members talked about overcoming nerves on stage. There isn’t a secret to constant confidence; show up and give the audience what you can because at the end of the day everyone is there to appreciate the music described Van Wagenen.
“They are real people who are also sometimes nervous,” explained Van Wagenen. “They’re normal people that have worked really hard.”
Voces8 vocalists emphasized that choral singing is about evangelizing music. Vocalists described how choral singing can tell a story and if singers aren’t in tune with the story, then neither will the audience.
Madeline Young, a second year Concert Choir singer, said she needed a reminder of “how important it is to sing organically and tell the story while you’re singing.” As a music education major, Young said it’s incredibly important to feel the music and remember to connect to who you’re performing for or teaching.
Jonathan Cheney, an experience design major and member of the Concert Choir for a year and a half, appreciated the masterclass’s emphasis on the individual within a choir. “Voces8 talked about the importance of working together as a group, but still bringing your own ideas to what you sing,” said Cheney.
Cheney said Voces8 increased his confidence in what he personally brings to a specific piece or choir, which raises the abilities of the choir as a whole.
Voces8 discussed what it means to combine evangelizing music, bringing individuality and performing for the audience.
Concert Choir member Katie Schwarz said the masterclass reminded her what music is about. It helped Schwarz reconnect with her personal connections to music. It’s part of her heart.
“I have something to offer. It doesn’t matter if I’m the same as other people, but I have something new, amazing and specific to offer as an individual,” said Schwarz. “I feel refreshed.”
As a music education major, Schwarz wants to model these elements in her future classroom so students can have a musical experience every day. She hopes to teach students to not only think about music in technical terms but to also think about what they feel with the music.
“There’s a difference between thought and heart,” said Schwarz, “but the true artist combines those into one.”