Completing a tour-de-force in Qatar last week, visiting choral music expert Greg Beardsell offered workshops to schools who competed in the recent ‘Qatar Primary School Choir of the Year 2017’ (QPSCoY) competition organised by Doha College, and a number of other music organisations. 

Greg Beardsell is Artistic Director of the Irish Youth Choir, Conductor of the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, Deputy Artistic Director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and is Choral Director for the Gabrieli Consort and Players’ education initiative, Gabrieli ROAR. He works worldwide as a conductor, singer, adjudicator, workshop leader and presenter, and now has added to this list Head Adjudicator of QPSCoY 2017 and host of a series of workshops for the finalists: Doha Youth Choir, Doha Junior Choir, Qatar Concert Choir, and a final workshop for music teachers from across Qatar.

The QPSCoY 2017 finalists’ workshops were held at Doha College and consisted of sessions bursting with energy and enthusiasm, during which Greg managed to teach complicated canons and rhythms in record time. The children were so entranced and listened with such magnetised attention, the music simply poured in and out of them.

Greg did not just teach the children songs, but also taught them how to position themselves, how to focus, how to listen to others and their own voices. He also pointed out their responsibilities and those of the conductor, and most importantly how singing in a choir is ultimately a team effort. The little singers also discovered how to add oomph to their singing by adding beats and effects using sound apps on their iPads, which they then started to sing in the playground at break!

The children learned to understand how choir singing can be just as challenging – physically and mentally – and as fun as any team game, with the added benefits of music. Greg’s engaging personality meant that within minutes, the children had memorised the lyrics and absorbed their meanings, and were able to sing different riffs simultaneously, producing incredibly complex harmonies and rhythms. They also practised co-ordination of breathing and choreography, and then learned to work together for a result that is so uplifting and rewarding to themselves and their audience.

The teachers’ workshop also covered a great range of subjects including musicianship training, repertoire, online resources, conducting, rehearsals skills, improvisation, mash ups and technology. It was an absolute success, and the participants were thrilled to take back new ideas and techniques they could share with their students.

Rachel Seay from Qatar Music Academy said she is thankful to Doha College for organising the opportunity for the music community of Qatar. English Modern School’s Dianne Bishop added that she learned so many new things from the workshop, and that it was very beneficial and conducted in a relaxed and encouraging set-up.

Greg Beardsell, whose visit to Qatar was his first in the region, sponsored by DNA Records and Shangri-La Hotel Doha, said he was delighted to connect with musicians of so many different sorts. He explained that it’s important to feel a greater sense of community because being a musician can sometimes be slightly isolating.

It was about trying to establish a network where people can share skills and experiences and really develop choral music in the country.’

Doha College is one of the oldest British curriculum schools in Qatar providing world-class education for students between the ages of 3 and 18, representing over 72 nationalities.

For more information about Doha College, visit their website at dohacollege.com.