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UC research could lead to less frustration among singers

UC research could lead to less frustration among singers, conductors and the public

February 26, 2014

The results of University of Canterbury PhD research could lead to less frustration among singers, conductors and the public, a music postgraduate says.

UC music postgraduate student Andrew Withington, music director of the Christchurch City Choir, says more conductors and choir singers need to be taught to hear and understand a natural tuning system called just intonation.

``Singing in a choir is something that most people can enjoy. My research will hopefully help conductors feel more confident hearing out-of-tune singing and helping their choirs to fix problems.

``Singers should be able to sing more in tune and experience the joy of doing this. Public enjoyment of concerts should increase as choirs sing more in tune. There should be less cringe-worthy moments.

``Instead, there should be more of those spine-tingling, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-up moments for everyone to savour. The research has compelling national interest and potentially international interest, which should be huge.

``In my experience, most choirs singing unaccompanied don’t tend to sing consistently in tune.
But I found that when choirs sing using this system, it provides more of those spine-tingling moments for the public.

``I anticipate that my research will prove and establish why just intonation is desirable and then create a teaching approach and curriculum for the training of conductors and their choirs. There should be spin-offs to composers writing music for choirs as well.’’

The UC Chamber Choir Consortia, and the University of Canterbury Vocal Consort Consortia 16 will be involved in the trials, which will also extend to the Christchurch community and nationwide.

Withington is musical director of the New Zealand Secondary Students' Choir. He is also an advisor for the Association of Choral Directors for the New Zealand Choral Federation.

`Withington has support from UC’s School of Music, where he also teaches conducting and choir training. The school has a new head, Associate Professor Glenda Keam, who has been President of the Composers Association of New Zealand for the past seven years and has represented New Zealand music through her research and advocacy nationally and internationally. 


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