Stephan – from Germany to Turkey

Istanbul, August 23-27, 2023

As part of the ECA’S P2P program, I had the privilege of being an exchange partner alongside Basak Dogan and her choir, Chromas, from August 23rd to 27th in Istanbul, Turkey. The exchange aimed at mutual learning, with Basak Dogan, a distinguished figure in the vocal pop scene under the tutelage of Jim Daus Hjernøe, and myself, a classical choir conductor and teacher, seeking to explore how we could synergize elements from both genres in our choral endeavors. Importantly, my extensive experience in staged choral concerts with my ensemble, CHOREOS, was also a central theme of our exchange.

While Basak’s choir predominantly embraces vocal pop, with around 90% of their repertoire hailing from this genre, they’ve daringly ventured into the classical choral repertoire on occasions, such as their recent interpretation of Ola Gjeilo’s “Northern Lights.”

My workshop, titled “CHOREOS – Singing in 3D,” aimed to bridge classical choral traditions with the vibrant world of pop choirs. The workshop encompassed four key themes:

  1. Energy Level
  2. Rhythm
  3. Space
  4. Emotions

I designed and executed exercises related to these themes with the participants. The workshop was conducted in English, with translation into Turkish provided by an interpreter.

Concerning the first theme, “Energy Level,” the workshop aimed to synchronize participants’ energy levels through a range of exercises. It often becomes apparent that an individual’s self-perception doesn’t always match the group’s perception, necessitating an exploration of how individuals must harmonize with the collective. Simultaneously, I emphasized the ensemble’s personal accountability through exercises, teaching the group that they can harness greater power when they take the initiative to shape and lead themselves, beyond relying solely on their choir conductor.

Given the significance of rhythm in the pop realm, the workshop extensively covered this topic. Through diverse rhythm exercises, the choir gleaned insights that anticipation and physicality play pivotal roles in achieving success.

Our focus also extended to the concept of space. I guided the choir to experience how mere shifts in mental focus can lead to tangible acoustic changes. Notably, exercises centered around this aspect evoked moments of profound emotion during the workshop.

All participants actively engaged in the workshop, and the conclusion was marked by minutes of applause. The general consensus was that the time was far too short, with many expressing a strong desire to continue our collaboration. Countless photographs were taken, contacts were exchanged, and social media platforms buzzed with impressions from the workshop.

In addition to our choir activities, I also had the privilege of attending the “Voiceup A Capella Festival.” Beyond the captivating concerts, the festival’s workshops and ateliers took center stage. This provided me with a valuable opportunity to connect and network with not only Turkish choirs and choir directors but also those from diverse international backgrounds.

In summary, my personal evaluation is overwhelmingly positive. The workshop was met with exuberance, and the concepts I introduced from the classical choral realm have proven exceptionally valuable, even within the dynamic vocal pop sphere, where some were still uncharted territory. These days have convinced me that a robust foundation has been laid for forthcoming exhilarating encounters.

Stephan Lutermann