Short Talks by Susan Deas

One-off lectures: 1 to 3 hours

Susan giving a lecture

These are some examples of stand-alone lectures Susan has given in the past. Talks can be customised to special occasions, and can make great fundraisers. Many other topics are available by request.

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old music notation

How to Read Music (sort of)

Of course, you can’t learn to read music in a few hours! But it is possible to explore how music notation works, and to discover how notes, rhythms and musical expression are written on the page. This session provides a beginner’s guide to the basic principles of western music notation and score reading. No prior musical knowledge is necessary. More information

music notes on a plate

Music Theory Taster

Have you ever wondered if you could understand more about how music works? This lecture allows you to dip your toe into the water of music theory, and discover the craft behind the magic of music. We will explore the basics of music's inner workings, and discuss where to go next if you would like to learn more. No prior musical knowledge is required. More information

hand playing chord on guitar

How Chords Work

This workshop will explore the theory and function of chords in music: how chords work, how they are derived from scales, and what various chord symbols mean. We explore the theory behind chords, what notes should be included, and how they function in chord progressions. For guitarists, pianists, and anyone who is interested in the theory of chords. More information

Baroque architecture

A Morning in the Baroque Period

The Baroque period has given us some of the most dramatic and beautiful compositions of music history. In this lecture we explore the rich complexity of Baroque music, providing insight into the works of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi and their contemporaries, in their social and historical context. Learn what makes Baroque music sound Baroque, and what the great composers were striving to achieve.

James Wyatt's Pantheon, London, built 1772

A Morning in the Classical Period

Eighteenth century composers believed that music should be appreciated by all, regardless of class or education. Little wonder then that the music of this period, composed by such greats as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, is so popular. This lecture explores the music of the classical period, and what its composers were trying to achieve.

Turner: The Fighting Temeraire

A Morning in the Romantic Period

Composers in nineteenth century Europe wrote is some of the most beautiful and dramatic of all classical music. Examining the music of the Romantic period in its historical and social context, we look at the works of composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky.

Monet: Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1899

A Morning in the Impressionist Period

Composers of the Impressionist period, such as Sibelius, Elgar, Mahler, Debussy and Ravel gave the world exotic and rich new sounds, in the last moments before many composers abandoned ‘normal’ music and went atonal. This lecture examines the music of this period in its historical and social context.

Painting of a Baroque orchestra

The Concerto Grosso

The Concerto Grosso was loved by Baroque composers such as Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. There are examples in Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and many of Handel’s concertos. Explore how the genre works, contrasting a small group of soloists with the orchestra to create a wonderful variety of textures and musical ideas. We will listen to some great music and explore its historical context.

Person playing violin with orchestra

Introduction to the Concerto

The concerto has long been one of the most popular genres of classical music, combining the virtuosity of a soloist with the power of an orchestra. This lecture will show you to what to listen for and what to expect in a concerto, and how to get more out of your listening. We will listen to excerpts of some wonderful concertos through history.

Portrait of Chopin

An Evening with Chopin

Chopin’s music has delighted us for nearly two hundred years. Perhaps no other composer is so closely associated with the piano, which in his time was newly finding its voice. His too-short life had its own drama and turmoil, with his exile from Poland, his relationship with French authoress George Sand, and his battle with tuberculosis. Join us to spend an evening with this great composer, listening to his music and exploring his life.

Old music notation of a Requiem

The Requiem

The Requiem Mass has been set to music by hundreds of composers for over a thousand years. From Mozart to Verdi, from Gregorian chant to Stravinsky, the variety of style and mood has been immense. Join us for an evening of beautiful music, as we explore the riches of this musical genre.

Old music notation of a Mass

The Mass in Music

The words of the Mass have been set to music by countless composers for hundreds of years. Composers as diverse as Mozart, Puccini, Stravinsky and Palestrina have all taken the same words and given us a glorious variety of musical settings. Join us as we explore the structure and history of this wonderful genre.

Portrait of Beethoven

An Evening with Beethoven

The music of Ludwig van Beethoven is some of the most famous of the classical repertoire. And the story of the man behind the music is just as fascinating. Despite becoming completely deaf in his forties, he composed music that still thrills and amazes us today. Join us to spend an evening with this great genius, listening to his music and exploring his life.

Susan conducting

What Do Conductors Do?

Classical music conductors: we’ve all seen them, waving their arms around and looking intense. But what are conductors actually doing? What would happen if they stopped conducting? Would the music really fall apart? Why are some conductors more famous others? In this lecture we explore the world of conductors and conducting – the facts and myths about conducting classical music.

Portrait of Mozart

An Evening with Mozart

In his short life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote over six hundred works, many of which are among the most-loved in the classical repertoire, including the Clarinet Concerto and the Requiem. He also dealt with personal tragedy as well as career trials and triumphs. Join us to spend an evening with this great genius, listening to his music and exploring his life.

close up of piano keyboard

The Piano

Some of the most famous classical music of all time has been written for the piano. Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca, Debussy’s Claire de Lune, Chopin’s Nocturnes, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies, Satie’s Gymnopedies, and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata are just a few. Spend an evening with us exploring the development of the piano, and listening to some beautiful and thrilling music from the piano repertoire.

old picture of singer gesturing

Words to Music: The Magic of Text Setting

How does the music enhance the text? When a composer takes a text, for a song, an opera, a choral piece, or anything vocal, their job is to bring out the meaning and emotion of the words through appropriate music. We explore how composers have approached this aspect of music, by listening to some innovative and effective examples, and exploring a little of the craft itself and how it works.

Portrait of Bach

An Evening with Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach composed some of the most famous works of the classical repertoire, and influenced more composers than anyone else. Come spend an evening exploring his life and music.

Painting of Handel with Messiah score

Handel’s Messiah

Handel’s Messiah is a remarkable work with a remarkable history: when Charles Jennens prepared the text for Handel, he hoped “that the Composition may excel all his former Compositions, as the Subject excels every other Subject.” In this course we will discuss the background to the composition of this work, and explore the music that makes it one of the most loved choral works of all time.

Painting of singer and pianist

The Story of Lieder

A perfect blend of words and music in miniature, lieder is a genre which always rewards closer attention. In this lecture we explore some wonderful songs of great composers, and how they brought music to poetry to achieve this marvellous artform.

Portrait of Schubert

An Evening with Schubert

The composer of The Trout, Ave Maria, and the Unfinished Symphony, Schubert is one of the most loved composers of Romantic classical music. In his tragically short life, he composed an astonishing wealth and variety of music, and the story of his life is fascinating. We spend an evening exploring the life and music of the great Schubert.

Painting of a sunset over the sea

Discovering Programme Music

Programme music is music which paints a picture or tells a story, without the aid of sung or spoken words. From Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Gershwin’s An American in Paris, this genre that has given us some marvellous thrill rides and emotional journeys. As Tchaikovsky put it, shouldn’t music “express those things for which there are not words, but which need to be expressed?”

Photo of George Gershwin

George Gershwin's Journey to Opera

George Gershwin's first musical job was playing piano at a Catskills Mountains resort. His journey from these beginnings to his opera, “Porgy and Bess,” is a fascinating one, and includes his great symphonic works, Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. This lecture will explore how he grew from a Tin Pan Alley song plugger to a great operatic composer.

photo of Puccini

Puccini and the Orchestra

Puccini is one of the most loved opera composers of all time. In this lecture we explore how he used the orchestra and aspects of musical style to enhance the drama of his wonderful operas.

portrait of Verdi

Verdi and the Orchestra

Verdi was one of the greatest composers of the 19th century, and his operas are some of the most loved of all time. His operas never fail to move us emotionally, to draw us in to his dramatic and moving stories, and to send us away singing his melodies. In this lecture, we explore how Verdi used the orchestra and his vast knowledge of the craft of music to create such wonderful operas.


Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue

We explore “A Rhapsody in Blue,” a much-loved piece by George Gershwin: what made it such a landmark of its time, and what makes it still so wonderful today.

portrait of Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky's 1812

Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky has given us some of the most-loved pieces of western classical music. In this lecture Susan Deas will explore the background and themes of Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 overture, with analysis that will enrich your understanding and bring the music to life.

Painting of an angel with a violin

What is an Oratorio?

Combining words and music with choir, soloists and orchestra, the oratorio is one of the grandest genres of classical music. We explore how this wonderful genre works, with its origins and structures. We will listen to excerpts from such great works as Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.

Calendar of future events

What's coming soon?

Check Susan’s Calendar of coming events