Organists are often asked to conduct choirs, either as a routine part of their job, or for special occasions, but many of them do not have formal training in conducting. By offering a workshop in conducting, the Tacoma AGO hopes to make that problem a little bit better.
On November 20, 2017, Tacoma AGO member Don Dunscomb led that workshop as our November program. Don recently retired and moved to this area to be closer to family. He spent the last years of his working life as Music Director at a church in Roseburg, Oregon, where he oversaw the development of children, youth, and adult choirs, various vocal and instrumental groups and ensembles, and a small orchestra. While in Roseburg, he conducted the Roseburg Concert Chorale for a season, as well as the Umpqua Community College Orchestra. In the late 90s, Don studied choral conducting with Gordon Borror at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.
Drawing on his experience in both choral and instrumental conducting, Don emphasized the importance of communication, and maintaining clarity for singers who may be inexperienced or lack confidence.
The group began its conducting experience by singing Randall Thompson’s Alleluia accompanied by Curt Sather on the Fritts organ in Kilworth Chapel. Standing together, with Curt playing, each of the members got to practice giving a clear downbeat. We learned to subdivide for clarity, how to handle irregular measures, and how to bring in voices and end voices at the same time. Most of us are probably not ready to conduct Parry’s I Was Glad, but everybody left with a few skills and a little confidence that they didn’t have previously.