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On a warm Saturday in January, the Peterborough Singers had the privilege of spending time with one of Canada’s foremost choral conductors, Robert Cooper. The occasion was a day-long workshop to prepare the choir for singing the Brahms Requiem in March, as one of the guest artists of the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra. Also joining the PSO will be baritone Alexander Dobson and soprano Leslie Fagan–both favourites with the Singers as well as with Peterborough audiences.

The workshop, which some choristers referred to as “choir boot camp” was demanding: hours upon hours of singing and focused learning, as Bob Cooper taught music theory, vocal technique, and the historical context of this great work. Who can forget the speech on the hemiola? Or the tips on producing “Singlish”?

But let us give the last word to a few Peterborough Singers.

Bob Cooper brings us such breadth and depth: music history and this work in the context of other requiems; Brahms’s intent with his original choice of words; Brahms’s musical references to other works; an appreciation for the importance, colour, and pulse of the orchestra; vocal technique to sustain us; how to be heard over the orchestra. . . .  It was a challenging, exhausting, and most rewarding day! I hope we can remember all that he has taught us and put it into practice. 


Simply put, Saturday was amazing!  Not only did I really begin to understand Brahms’s Requiem, but the few hours I spent with Bob Cooper made me a better singer.  What a privilege!




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