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The Hatch-Billops Musicians

Leonard DePaur conducting

Leonard DePaur

In his February 22, 1974 interview with CCNY student Annette Eccles, composer/conductor/singer Leonard DePaur discusses his musical background and early influences including his apprenticeship with composer/conductor Francis Hall Johnson.

In this sample clip, DePaur describes Johnson’s unique style of conducting.

Transcript of audio clip

Leonard DePaur: For some reason or another, he [Hall Johnson] had no patience with the prescribed methods for conducting. To my knowledge, he has never beaten a pattern—as we describe it in conducting (1-2-3-4,1-2-3)—the sort of thing that is universal in terms of time-beating for conducting. I mean, you can do this anywhere in the entire world, and they’ll play a 4/4 bar whether you speak a language or not. But Hall [Johnson] had a style of conducting—as you know—that’s totally and uniquely his own. He conducted phrases—which is now being done when you’ve good contact with your players…and can leave the beat long enough to develop phrases. But he had a style that—well, you’d have to go to some of the critiques of his choir. They described it as ‘evocation’ as ‘preaching’ and ‘ministry’…he just did fantastic things with his body. He had long arms—he was a tall, gaunt man with arms that went on forever. And fingers that were twice as long as anybody elses. So, he could draw picture images with his hands and with his arms and drew from singers what he wanted. And as I say, not being encumbered by any knowledge of what singing was supposed to be—in the technical sense—I mean the business of the diaphragm, and the mask and the resonance chambers and all that foolishness that teachers burden the pupil with—he pretended not to know they existed. He just said ‘this is what I want in the way of an effect.” And he would go to your imagination, and call from your imagination what he wanted—and got it.   

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