Susie has been saying it for 10 years…make eye contact with your audience. Make a connection with your audience. Also, look up from your music and watch the conductor (a subject for another day). That connection is one of the reasons that I sing in the Windward Choral Society. There are actually two: the one that forms with the audience and the one that forms with my fellow singers (also a subject for another day).
Our 10th anniversary holiday concerts were a grand example of that connection. More than one person in the audience described it as our “best concert ever” and I believe that the relationship we built with the audience is what made it feel that way. Did we sing light-years better than we ever have before? We were badass but all of our performances are at a high level; I don’t think that was it. Was the repertoire different and magical and transformative? Well…yeah, but it always is.
I think three things happened that were just a little “more” than they’d been in the past (and I was paying attention, the Blogmeister sees all). First, a whole bunch of people did as they were told and took the time at the end of songs to look out, smile and make eye contact with the audience before moving on. I also saw interaction between the singers at the end of pieces, smiles and “that was awesome” looks that the audience couldn’t help but pick up on and plug into. When two people glance at each other and laugh for a moment just because of the joy of the moment it’s contagious.
Most importantly (and a lesson for the future): we had a lot of the music down. Seriously down. Almost memorized down (Mrs. Blogmeister made a point of mentioning what a huge difference that made to the audience…she sees all, too). We spent more time with our faces out of our music than any time I can remember and that plugs a singer into the audience. Eyes up looking at Susie and moving around the crowd pulling them into the moment. Abandoned folders mean dancing happens on the risers, pulling them in deeper. The confidence shows. The ending of the song has ALL eyes up and some people in the audience realize they’ve been holding their breath and that moment of silence gives them a chance to exhale and applaud. There was even a soft “Wow” before the applause after ” O Nata Lux”. Very cool.
Think about it…phrases like “yabba bim bom” and “ocho kandilekas” and “praise His name, praise His holy name” and “‘o ‘oe ‘io” and “for the lord God omnipotent reigneth” and pretty much ALL of the Swahili…eyes up, no need look. THAT makes “the best concert ever” happen.
So what do we do with this knowledge?