Masterclasses: Chris Purves, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Ann Murray and Toby Spence.

For a week in July, singers, tutors and pianists descended on Radley College near Oxford to take part in the Abingdon Summer School for Solo Singers.  For 3 consecutive days, we were extremely fortunate to have Christopher Purves, Ann Murray, Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Toby Spence hold masterclasses for all singers involved in the course.

I sat in as many of these classes as my schedule would allow.  I hope you find this conglomeration of points useful:


  • Recitative: what is the reason for your recit? Why do you need to get someone’s attention enough for them to listen to you?
  • What do you want an audience to feel about your character at the very start Vs at the very end of a piece? How can you ensure that this is applied to your interpretation of the piece?
  • Become accustomed to speaking through your recit and aria in a declamatory spoken voice – notice where you breathe, and where the natural stresses fall in the text.
  • You should be able to recite the text to both recit and aria without requiring the music.


  • Breathe with intent – this includes the use of expressive breaths, especially if they fall within a long phrase / section of coloratura.
  • Remeber to empty the breath before starting a new phrase, allowing you to resonate and not hold on to unnecessary breath. Similarly, do not hold your breath during long phrases – allow your sound to spin naturally, and trust this (and your support) will see you through.


  • Sing from the moment a phrase begins, no creeping!
  • If you encounter long phrases on one vowel, practise alternating the vowel, to keep the sound boyant.
  • Singing a phrase on rolled ‘R’s is a useful means of assessing how much breath you need to take on a phrase.
  • The ends of phrases are important! Ensure you end a phrase with equal purpose and spin; think of a phrase in it’s entirety, and do not allow the ends to drop. Never drop the intensity of your line.
  • If you have an idea of how a piece should be interpreted, commit to it.

One thought on “Masterclasses: Chris Purves, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Ann Murray and Toby Spence.

  1. Pingback: ”Aspire with realism” – Sue McCulloch | thalie knights

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