william dehning, conductor

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What They Say . . .


. . . about his conducting and teaching:
I learned so much from watching you at work and so much of that training gave me the skill that made me the musician that I am and continue to be.
--Maimy Fong, pianist, Austin, TX

Your performances of the Mid-Winter Songs and Madrigali were gorgeous beyond words, as fine as I have ever experienced. Beautifully shaped, sensitive to the text and music, performed with such affection and consummate artistry. A composer could simply not ask for more . . . The members of the audience including myself were stunned by what we experienced . . .
--Morten Lauridsen, composer, Los Angeles, CA

I heard your choir at ACDA in Los Angeles. The Bach [Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied] was STUNNING. I’ve never heard it performed so well.
--Charlene Archibeque, conductor, San Jose, CA

I learned of your performance of Lord Listen to Your Children and saw the video of . . . your amazing rendition . . . Never will there be a more gratifying performance of my arrangement. Your interpretation took it several levels higher than it has ever been done. The added measures after the second verse were a stroke of genius.
--Jack Schrader, arranger, Wheaton, IL

. . . Dehning’s impeccable programming instincts plus his amazing expressive gifts and extraordinary conducting skills [produce] an unforgettable performance.
--Steve Hodson, educator, Santa Barbara, CA
It is truly one of the joys of our profession to experience the wisdom, generosity, humor and spirit of dedicated choral music professionals like you. . . Some comments: 'Great observations and wisdom;' 'Never thought I'd get to meet such a titan in our profession;' Down-to-earth, funny, but SO wise . . .'
--Susan Mc Allister, Past President, Wisconsin Choral Directors Assn.
  . . . about his rehearsals:
Rehearsal technique is another art-form that you have mastered. . . .The pace is always fast, I never feel vocally tired . . . After two hours of rehearsal I often want to continue singing! Each rehearsal is so clean you could cut yourself on the edges. One always knows what is coming next . . . and I have never experienced a conductor who showed me so clearly the structure of the piece by the way they rehearsed it. You free our voices with your gesture and run a water-tight ship with your rehearsal technique. And your overall musicality and talent are awe-inspiring.
--Dominic Gregorio, DMA student/singer, USC
Knowing your wonderful reputation working with fine singers and musicians at USC, I was curious to see how you would work with our young high school choir.  From the second you walked in the door you were engaging, fun and managed to convey every musical idea without dumbing anything down and without sacrificing musicality.  In front of high school students, that is a talent. . .At the same time you did not force [your] perspective on the students but allowed them to discover [theirs] and in doing so [to] own it.  What was most astonishing is that you managed to convey these ideas in such a short time and with conducting instead of lecturing as your mode of instruction.
--Michael Najar, conductor, Palo Alto, CA 
. . . about 'Chorus Confidential:'
There is more helpful, hard-won, hands-on truth about choral conducting on every page of this book than in whole chapters of many such manuals. It is wise, far-reaching and fall-down funny. Any singer or conductor you know will thank you the rest of your life for a gift of Chorus Confidential.
--Kirke Mechem, composer, San Francisco, CA

There is really nothing quite like [Chorus Confidential] -- many thanks for telling the unvarnished, painful, and often hilarious truth about so many things.
--William Weinert, conductor, Eastman School, NY
I loved this book—a fast, enlightening read and lots of fun. Granted,
Dehning himself leads a choir full of voice majors, while many of us are
working with what he terms “Y’all Come Choirs,” but what he says
applies across the board. While offering plenty of specifics on
respiration, diphthongs, intonation, rhythmic precision, etc., he does a
splendid job of articulating the conceptual stuff—how to find the soul of a score and communicate its spirit and poetry. 
--Lyn Joyner, organist-choirmaster, Memphis, TN

Dehning’s book is insightful and challenging, offering practical advice as well
as humorous approaches to a complex art. It is frequently scathing, but never dull. Some may think it too controversial, even out of bounds. One thing is certain: he is not afraid to laugh at himself or at others. . .Written while on sabbatical in a Spanish Basque coastal town, . . .it is not in a usual academic format . . .The result is an informative, thoughtful, frequently irreverent, entertaining, “quasi-narcissistic little genre bender” (p. 148).
--Brian Lanier, THE CHORAL JOURNAL, Vol. 45, Issue 7

 . . . about his performances:

 "The [LA Chamber] orchestra played decently, though . . . with a struggle for balance.  The singing, however was a treat.  Student choruses are often special--there is no matching combined young voices, well-prepared.  Here, the USC Choral Artists sang Haydn's choruses with a bright, cheerful effect--pure in tone, alert to every word, thrilling in its exuberant massed sound, eager for a challenge and not set in its way.  It brought Haydn to life.   . . . Eric Owens, a rich bass, sang with sincerity, phrases beginning big and profound, if sometimes drooping in the middle.  But Rilling, the irrepressible chorus and Haydn were always there to prop him--and the audience--up at the end."

--Haydn: Die Schöpfung, by Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times


". . . Rilling propelled the music forward, emphasizing the dramatic narrative.  For this he took special advantage of quick responses of the well-trained young voices in the [USC Choral Artists]."

 --Bach: Mattäus-Passion, by Mark Swed, LATimes


"The program [of the LA Chamber Orchestra] concluded, however, with ringing affirmation of the truism that Father Bach knows best, with a radiant performance of his motet 'Singet dem Herrn,' sung with joyous intensity by the USC Chamber Choir under Rilling's practiced, loving hand."

--Bach: Singet dem Herrn, by Herbert Glass, LATimes


"[Rilling's] chorus was the 42-voice USC [Choral Artists], honed by its director William Dehning to produce a light, even, well-blended sound and to pronounce the German clearly and intelligently."

--Bach: Weinachtsoratorium, by Chris Pasles, LATimes


"William Dehning led a rhetorically rich interpretation [with the Cambridge Singers], sung with will-drilled appreciation for the text and solid ensemble values."

 --Vaughan Williams, Dona nobis pacem, by John Henken, LATimes


"William Dehning's [USC Chamber Choir] sang the wordless, meditative choral part with grace and admirably precise intonation--a true challenge when performing such consistently soft and sustained yet harmonically dense textures."

--Feldman: Rothko Chapel, by Carl Byron, LATimes


"Dehning is part poet, part technician, part scholar.  His choirs always know what they're singing about. Their sense of the words, the context for them, and their relationship to the music permit them to share their conductor's interpretations.  The hallmark of a Dehning concert is its musical 'articulateness.'  He empowers his singers and the audience can feel it.  His performances are always intelligent, and the intelligence is that of the true professional--as it was on Saturday night.

--[California Choral Company Comes Home], by Maurice McCullen, Stockton Record



William Dehning, DMA, conductor/consultant
Emeritus Professor of Choral Music,
University of Southern California

Past President-Founding Officer,
National Collegiate Choral Organization

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