Welcome to the latest edition of Purcell’s Weekly Highlights!

Choral Conducting Masterclass with Toby Purser

Last week, as part of Purcell’s series of virtual Festival Masterclasses, Aural and Conducting teacher Irina Walters organised an outstanding online Choral Conducting event with renowned conductor and Head of Conducting at the Royal College of Music Toby Purser.

The masterclass was exceptionally well received by the participating students who praised Toby Purser for sharing not only his insight and expertise but his time and enthusiasm so generously. Thomas in Year 11 commented that it made him better appreciate that ‘the job of a conductor is actually very complicated and more intense than I previously thought’ and Rebecca in Year 9 added that the experience reinforced that conducting is ‘an important skill, increasing aural abilities and coordination between the hands, which I think is important for all musicians’.

Such was the impact of the masterclass, that two students provided full accounts of the event to share.

Phoebe (Year 9)

‘On Wednesday [27th January 2021] Mrs Walters’s conducting students had the great honour in attending a wonderful virtual masterclass with British conductor Toby Purser, Head of Conducting at The Royal College of Music. Purser has studied with some of the greatest conducting pedagogues of all time, including the legendary Ilya Musin and we were all very excited to meet him. We each had chosen, researched and prepared a piece of choral music to conduct online to then receive feedback on where and how we could improve. Purser was extremely generous in his time and spirit, working with each one of us in turn and sharing such valuable advice in ways to build our musicianship to reach the highest integrity as musicians. He stressed the importance of studying and preparing the score well in advance of a first rehearsal and to build aural awareness, explore interpretation, think of acoustics and every detail so that once in a rehearsal you could be really brave and honest about the ideas that you want to portray. Conducting compositions from César Franck to Rachmaninov, Purser gave each student the most precise and wonderful points which included advice on being very disciplined and economical with the left hand and to avoid both hands moving in parallel, every movement having a purpose and meaning whilst also keeping the attention of the choir. Purser also spoke of his happiest moments as a conductor and it was such a privilege to learn so much about his philosophy behind music and conducting, all extremely valuable advice for any musician.

On behalf of The Purcell School, Mrs Walters and all the conducting students I would like to thank Toby Purser for our wonderful masterclass.’


Sam (Year 11)

‘Last week, we were fortunate enough to have a conducting masterclass with the renowned British conductor, Toby Purser. 7 of our students conducted pieces of choral repertoire including David Willcocks – Resonemus Laudibus, Cesar Franck – Panis Angelicus, Sergei Rachmaninov – Spring Waters and more. The students conducted brilliantly and Mr Purser was very pleased. He offered extremely helpful and interesting advice to our young conductors. We sincerely hope that Mr Purser can come again to the school in order to give more conducting masterclasses in the future.’

Our sincere thanks to Toby Purser and Irina Walters for this making this invaluable teaching event possible.