Berkshire Choral International

So much to learn!

Berkshire Choral International classes and lectures are taught by professional faculty and music staff. Learn music history, theory, vocal technique, how to audition, how to care for your voice, and much more. In addition, private voice, theory, ear training, and conducting lessons are available on a fee basis. You will learn new things no matter which BCI venue you choose, but know that only our home campus in Sheffield offers a full complement of classes (every week, unless noted otherwise). View the musical staff here: 2016 Faculty

The following are representative of BCI classes. They will differ according to the composer and/or era of a certain week's music and the faculty. Class descriptions and schedules are included in each chorister's registration packet.

Browse the entire list or click on a subject below to go directly to those particular classes.

Techniques of music: voice and diction

* Singing For A Lifetime
We all aspire to keep our voices healthy, vibrant, and free, but a combination of environmental and age-related factors can make the task harder now than when we were 20. This discussion-based class reviews pillars of vocal technique, describes the way age influences the voice, and offers concrete tools that enable all of us to keep our voices in peak condition.

* We highly recommend this class for all choristers, especially those over 70.

Singing In English
Two of the biggest challenges in singing in English (handling diphthongs and nasality) will be addressed. You will learn to spot the troublemakers "m," "n," "ng," "l" and "r" before they wreak havoc on your beautiful singing tone! We will work specifically with the Britten text and will learn ways to counteract the "handicap" of being an American English speaker.

Space: The Final Frontier
This vocal technique class explores maxim vocal tone through resonance. Topics include hums, purifying vowels, front vs. back resonance and voice consonants.

Latin Diction
Learn to sing vowels so pure they could wear white on their wedding day.

Alexander Technique: An Introduction
Learn how you can free up tension in your body and thereby free up your voice.

Techniques of music: theory and sight reading

Sensational Sight Singing
An exciting exploration of sight-singing techniques will help make you every conductor’s favorite chorister. The class is offered in two parts, rhythm and pitch. Feel free to attend either or both.

Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a learning system that incorporates movement with music, is a wonderful way to heighten your inner sense of musical pulse. The class will offer on-your-feet participation to strengthen the relationship between our intellectual and physical perceptions of music occurring through time. The movement aspect of the class is simple but vital to grasping the concepts, so be ready to be up on your feet.

Music Theory
Here’s a chance to brush up on some basic music theory and learn how music theory knowledge will make you a better choral singer. It can be fun. Really. 


Arts Administration Roundtable
A roundtable discussion on problems we all face when running an arts organization. Share some ideas on how your chorus can increase membership, program effectively and raise money

K-12 Music Making
Students across the globe are engaging in meaningful music-making activities. Find what they are up to in this exploratory session.

Older, Wiser and Happier
Scientific research tells us that musicians have many advantages when it comes to physical and mental health. In this session, we will discuss studies that show how music making plays a role in our health as we age.

Conducting for Singers
This class will focus on the art of embodying the pulse of a musical phrase and following a conductor in rehearsal and performance. 

Performance Nerves/How to Audition
Ever get nervous before a solo or before an audition? We all do. Learn some techniques that will help you cope. Get some tips on how to audition.

What Makes Tenors So Special?
In the world of opera, tenors tend to be the hero, get the great tunes and also get the girl. Find out why and listen to several great examples.

Music history

Britten’s Art Song Repertoire
Listen to and compare Britten’s solo vocal music, his arrangements of folk songs and his arrangement of Purcell songs as well as original compositions. We will hear some recordings of Britten at the piano as well as some contemporary recordings.

Dvorak in America
Explore Dvorak’s time in America, the music he wrote and his influence on our musical culture.

Dvorak’s Art Song Repertoire
Listen to and compare Dvorak’s solo vocal music, from his original compositions to his fold song settings. We’ll also hear how other composers set some of the same tests in different styles and languages. (Week 3)

Wilfred Owen, Poet
An introduction to the life and work of Britain’s greatest war poet, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), with particular reference to the poems Benjamin Britten chose to set in his extraordinary War Requiem.

Britten and His Times
Michael Sheetz
A look at Britten’s life from childhood up through the writing of the War Requiem. We will explore his political, musical and social development in 20th century England. (Week 1)

Chant: The Untold Story of Western Musical Heritage
A discussion of the origins of written music and an introduction to reading and singing plainsong. Learn about the fascinating roots of our musical culture and take home some of history’s most enduring melodies. (Weeks 1 and 3)

Art and Artists of The World Wars
The two great wars of the 20th century inspired Benjamin Britten, Wilfred Owen (whose poems Britten used in his War Requiem) and many more writers, musicians and visual artists. Learn about the art that arose in the heat of conflict, the art that returned from the battlefield and the artists who did not.

Ella Sings Ellington
Listen to selections from the monumental collaboration between Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington’s band. Hear some of the stories behind the recordings.

Participatory classes

Chair Yoga
Are you feeling stiff and sluggish from traveling to Sheffield? This gentle chair yoga class will help you turn inward through gentle stretches, all from the safety of a chair. For beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Comfortable, loose clothing suggested.

Ave Maria: The Virgin Mary as Renaissance Muse
Sing and discuss music of the Renaissance, written to honor Mary. We’ll hear works from the vast Marian repertoire and have a go at singing from partbooks.

Master Classes for Solo Choristers
Perfect for the church, community, beginning or professional soloist looking to hone his/her skills in a supportive performance setting. If you are interested in participating in this class, please sign up Monday morning in the Rehearsal Hall. You’ll want to bring solo music to BCI in order to take part in this exciting class.

Conducting Master Classes for Choristers
Are you a conductor of your church or community chorus, or hope to be one? Here's your chance to get helpful tips in a friendly setting! You may participate, sing in the lab choir or just observe. Please prepare a choral movement from our week's music.

Vocal Improvisation
Be prepared for spontaneous fun as you learn to create vocal music from scratch. Warning: Improvisation techniques are to be used outside BCI rehearsals and performances.

Performance classes

Apprentice Voice Master Class
Come watch our talented vocal apprentices receive valuable coaching on voice and performance technique from master teachers, to be announced each week.

Duke Ellington Lecture/Recital
Hear some of your Duke Ellington favorites while learning a bit of history about these famous pieces.

From Rags to Rachmaninoff
A lecture recital focusing on piano music composed between 1910 and 1920. Featuring works by Artie Matthews, Bartok, Debussy, Satie, Griffes and Rachmaninoff.