We are very lucky to be joined by William Cole as repetiteur for two of our upcoming workshops: ‘Script vs Score’ (20th August) and ‘Preparation and Presentation’ (26th August). As a pianist, composer and conductor, he has a great deal to offer our participants. We chatted to him to find out more… 

So, Will, can you introduce yourself, and your many avenues of creative output, for our readers? 

My work encompasses performing, composing and collaborative work. I studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music, and my work has been performed by groups like the Britten Sinfonia, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers. Alongside that I am a conductor and pianist, primarily in opera and collaborative theatre work. I’m particularly interested in new music, and am Music Director of Filthy Lucre, an immersive mixed-genre music night with whom I’ve conducted music from Xenakis to Radiohead. I’ve also worked on community programmes for Opera Holland Park, English Touring Opera and Wigmore Hall. I’m looking forward to returning to the Academy in September as a Repetiteur Fellow, working with students of the Opera School. 

I view these different strands less as part of a ‘portfolio’ career, and more as different sides of my creative practice. They’re all ways in which I express myself as an artist, and they’re all important.

How does your own experience and training inform the way you work with performers now?

My work in opera and theatre has repeatedly shown me the importance of communication. I encourage the performers I work with to have a clear idea of their artistic intention at every moment, and then we work together to make sure that intention is as focused as possible and really transmits to everyone who’s listening.

My composition background means I perhaps have a different relationship with the printed page. If you’ve agonised about exactly where to start a crescendo, or whether a passage should be marked piano or mezzo-piano, you tend to treat those markings in other music with plenty of respect! 

William conducts at Filthy Lucre. Photo copyright Nick Rutter.

What are your favourite things about your work? 

Working with great music, working with great performers, bringing new work to life, bringing live art to underserved audiences. The miracle that it happens at all! With all the difficulties of life and the challenges of our profession, there is still a community of people who are so dedicated to bringing creative artists, performers and audiences together.

What are the most common issues you come across when working with performers?

Lack of preparation, particularly relying on sight-reading skills rather than real engagement with the score. Not bringing their best into a rehearsal studio, for example by not warming up or not being well rested. Focusing on some aspects of music (usually quality of sound) at the expense of others (usually rhythm).

More generally, and usually as a result of above, you can find that performers ‘just sing’ in way that is comfortable, familiar and without clear thought behind each note or phrase. What I’m really looking for from a performer is intensity – something beyond the familiar or comfortable. Performers that offer that intensity, in a rehearsal or audition, are the ones that really stand out.

Do you have any advice for performers about working with a repetiteur? 

For an audition, a little score preparation goes a long way. While repetiteurs are trained to listen and respond, small indications of where you want to breathe or take time will help your audition go all the more smoothly. In my experience the best singers feel like they’re pulling me through the music rather than the other way round. Think about leading the pianist through the music at every turn, and it’s likely that the audience (or panel) will feel in safe hands too.

What will you be offering to participants in our workshops? 

I hope we’ll all have a renewed feel for the challenges of working with great art, and have developed the tools to meet those challenges.

To read more about Will and his work, you can visit his website here. For more about our series of workshops for performers, click here

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