Dominic Peckham – choral master reveals how to inspire your choir

Conductor Dominic Peckham has an impressive CV – he is guest chorus master at the English National Opera, musical director of the London Oriana Choir, and assistant music director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.

He also manages to hold down a number of others prestigious posts in between juggling media appearances (he appeared last year on Gareth Malone’s The Naked Choir) and spending time in Africa where he is involved with Big Sing Kenya, a scheme which aims to ignite people of all ages with a passion for singing.

In between all of these commitments Dominic found time in 2015 to co-write Inspire Your Choir 100 Ideas to Raise the Bar, with choral expert Mark De-Lisser. The pair will launch the book at an interactive vocal workshop at the London A Cappella Festival on January 30 where they will impart pearls of wisdom and special tips to help singers raise their game.

Dominic explained to iSing why he decided to write the book.

He said: “I am incredibly lucky to meet and work with inspirational leaders, vocal animateurs and conductors across the world at all levels. All of them are grateful for any advice, mentoring and training I am able to offer and eager to keep learning.Dominic Peckham 3 credit Charlie Ding

“I thought it was about time that I officially shared my experiences and knowledge with these amazing people who work tirelessly to create and sustain the phenomenon that it ‘singing together’ in its many forms.”

Dominic’s co-writer, Mark De-Lisser began his musical career singing in a church in Brixton, South London. He has worked in the music industry for more than 15 years as a vocal coach, arranger, choir leader and producer. He worked alongside Dominic as a mentor on The Naked Choir.

Dominic said of his colleague: “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather write and share best practice with than the amazing Mark De Lisser, a dear friend and respected colleague who I admire and get a buzz from working with every time.”

Dominic said the book contained useful tips for people of all ages and abilities who are involved in singing in groups.

He said: “So the idea is simple – perhaps you don’t have enough time to read and digest a whole book, so this one is different: it’s a ‘go-to’ manual full of tips, suggestions and other ways of developing singing groups of all ages, size and levels.

“You should be able to drop it open at any page and find something useful to ‘Inspire Your Choir’ and allow you to think differently about what you do, how and why.”

Here are some of Dominic and Mark’s tips, taken from Inspire Your Choir 100 Ideas to Raise the Bar.

  • Compare singing to an instrument. The first thing we learn about an instrument is what makes it work – how the sound is produced. Ask your singers what makes us work as singers. The answer is breath and air flow.
  • Once they’ve got the idea, get them to hold the area of their body that they believe we can focus on breathing from.
  • Ban the word diaphragm! We can’t control it and it just creates mystery where there should be clarity. Talking about abdominal muscles instead allows singers to think about the breath process as a movement. Think about other instances where the abdominal muscles are engaged.
  • Start to feel the flow of breath by breathing together simply. Free, fluid, low-set abdominal breaths are what you’re looking for.
  • Do not breathe in and hold it – that promotes tension and constriction in the wrong area.
  • Visualise your breath flow by following the journey of the air with your arms.
  • Spend at least five minutes regularly in a single session resetting everyone’s breathing and asking them to listen to and remind themselves of the importance of freedom of movement.

Taking it further… Experiment with a silent run-through of pieces (actually running through the piece bar-by- bar) but thinking of airflow and the importance of releasing and accepting new ‘petrol’ for your next phrase.

To order Inspire Your Choir 100 Ideas to Raise the Bar CLICK HERE

For more on Dominic’s work visit dominicpeckham.com

For more on Mark’s work visit www.markdelisser.com


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