What is the Schöne Müllerin Project?
The Schöne Müllerin Project is a song performance course for adult amateur singers and pianists aged 30 or older who would like to improve their interpretive, collaborative, and performance skills as part of an intensive course on Schubert’s beautiful song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin or The Beautiful Miller Girl.
Led by instructors Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, with assistance from coach Csinszka Redai, and taught over a series of weekends in April and May, 2017, the Schöne Müllerin Project offers singers, pianists, and non-performing auditors the chance to take part in a unique joint performance project exploring the music, poetry, and performance tradition of Schubert’s wonderful song cycle for voice and piano.
Collaborative work is a key component of the Schöne Müllerin Project. The course will teach students about the song cycle as a work of poetry and music, but it is also designed to go deeper into the cycle as a reflection of the intimate and convivial performing tradition that supports it.
The Schöne Müllerin Project is thus more than simply a course leading to a performance of an important piece; it also affords participants unprecedented insight into the intimate and intriguing collaborative relationship between pianist and singer that lies at the core of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, and of the song repertoire for voice and piano.
How does it work?
the Schöne Müllerin Project achieves this balance between instruction and exploration by placing collaborative performance at the heart of the course.
Our students include performing singers and pianists, understudy singers and pianists, and auditors. Each type of student plays an important role in the project, whether as part of a performing pair, as a member of an understudy partnership, or as an engaged audience member and classmate who provides receptive listening and commentary to both the students and instructors throughout the course.
Singer-pianist duos are the cornerstone of the Schöne Müllerin Project. All performers and understudies will be paired with a number of partners to form singer-pianist duos that will work together to explore Schumann’s songs within collaborating partnerships, as would have been common among amateur musicians during Schubert’s lifetime. The study and performance experience of each student is enriched by the opportunity to discover Schubert’s music with like-minded amateurs. The closeness of pianism to voice in the songs is also emphasized as students form partnerships with different groupings for each song.
Each student will work on between two and six songs (depending on their choice) over the course of the project. Students explore these songs both as individuals in their private sessions, and with their duo partners in both private coachings and group sessions.
The majority of our work together will take place in group sessions, which are timetabled for Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons in April and May, 2017. Group sessions include Performance classes, Workshops, Lectures, and Faculty Open Rehearsals, all of which are attended by performers, understudies, and auditors. (See links on the right of this page for more information about individual elements.)
Singer-pianist duos will take a number of private Duo Coachings with Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, where they will work with each instructor separately to explore the intricate and intimate settings in Schubert’s songs from the perspective of a collaborative pair. Additionally, each student will attend a number of private Solo Coachings with Kathryn Whitney (singers) or Anna Cal (pianists), at times to be arranged to suit mutual timetables. Singers on the course will take two private coachings with Csinszka Redai to familiarize themselves with the music before the performance classes.
The course finishes with three Final Concerts – two Final Student Concerts and one Final Faculty Concert. The Final Student Concerts will feature a full performance of Schubert’s 20-song cycle, Die Schöne Müllerin. Each student will perform between two and four songs in the joint performance of the piece. The following week, our faculty will perform the full cycle in the Final Faculty Concert.
We hope you will join us on our journey to the heart of Schubert’s The Beautiful Miller Girl!
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Performance classes are group coaching sessions in which students perform for their fellow students, and the instructors coach them on their interpretation, presentation, pianism, diction, vocal production, and musicianship. Performance classes give students the opportunity to explore their pieces through live performance, finding their way into and through the songs and poetry guided by their own creative instincts and musical abilities. Each Performance class is jointly coached by Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal to give students equal attention and feedback. The classes are organized to accommodate three full presentations of the 20-song cycle Die schöne Müllerin across the course.
Lectures on the Schöne Müllerin Project, which sometimes featuring performance by the instructors, give students the opportunity to get to the heart of the song cycle, and to learn more about its performance history, poetry, and historical context. Two Lectures feature in the course: (1) On Die schöne Müllerin – an introduction to the cycle, its composer and poet; and (2) German Diction for Performers – a session on how to pronounce the German text and how to interpret German poetry for non-speakers
Two interactive exploratory Workshops are incorporated into the Schoene Muellerin Project: (1) Performing Song Correctly – Reflections on Historical vs. Experiential Models. Workshop 1 explores the tension modern performers feel when they try to balance tradition (what the ‘great’ performers have done with the cycle in the past) with innovation (how they may be moved to interpret songs differently now that they know them as performers). (2) Lyric, Lyricism, Performance. Workshop 2, which falls in the week before the final performances, explores the ‘lyric’ connection between poetry, song, and action, offering students the opportunity to reflect on how their performances may or may not be uniquely expressive, whether they should care, and what they can do about it.
Solo & Duo Coachings
Performers and Understudies take private Solo Coachings with either Kathryn Whitney (singers) or Anna Cal (pianists) in their respective studios at times to be arranged to suit mutual timetables.
Performers and Understudies also take private Duo Coachings with both Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, working in these sessions as part of a collaborative singer-pianist duo.
Performing singers on the course are allocated two private coachings with pianist Csinszka Redai to help them prepare their music in advance of the performance classes.
These sessions complement the group sessions, offering students the chance to work with the instructors one-on-one on any aspect of their music, whether technical, interpretive, or musical.
Faculty Open Rehearsals
The Schöne Müllerin Project is a course, but it is also a ‘reflective performance project’ – that is, a course during which the instructors are learning while they are teaching, and one in which they are themselves rehearsing for a performance of Schubert’s cycle, which will feature as part of a larger public concert at the end of the course. Faculty Open Rehearsals are a key part of the ‘reflective performance’ aspect of the project. These sessions offer students unprecedented access to their instructors in rehearsal, providing them with the opportunity to watch professionals at work (and to comment on the process) in an area of their music-making that students normally never see. The reflective performance aspect of the project is being overseen by the London-based SongArt group, of which Kathryn Whitney is a co-director.
Schöne Müllerin Omnibus
The Schöne Müllerin Omnibus is an informal evening for students and staff during which each student performs all the pieces he or she has been working on during the course. The Omnibus falls after the completion of the formal instruction, but before the dress rehearsals and Final Student Concert. It is a convivial evening when we all get the opportunity to be together and to hear each other again, but it also serves as a chance for students to run through their pieces in an informal performance atmosphere in advance of the final concert week.
Final Student Concerts
The Schöne Müllerin Project features two Final Student Concerts, which take place in the last weekend in May. Students will perform between two and four of the pieces they have been working on (depending on student preference and song availability). The running order of student performers will be announced two weeks before the end of the course. The student concerts are open to the public. Admission is by donation on the door.
The Schöne Müllerin Project will finish with a Faculty Concert by the instructors Kathryn Whitney & Anna Cal, in which they will perform the full cycle on the first weekend in June. This is a public concert. Admission will be by donation on the door.