I discovered (purely by accident of course) two ways to make a choir sound better. I’m certain there are many, many more but these two happened last weekend and I thought I’d share them for your consideration (and attempting).
Many of the Windward Choral Society regulars will remember “Siyahamba (We Are Marching)” from years past. The initial verse is in Zulu and the rhythm of it is infectious. Just enough syncopation and triplets to make you tap your toes in even the most conservative setting (like in a church, where it was being sung). It’s not a difficult piece and it didn’t take a whole lot of rehearsal time to make the sheet music and folders go away (more about that in a minute).
We always finish our pre-church preparations with the choir up in front of the altar in dress rehearsal mode and, as always, it sounded great…there just seemed to be a little something missing. In the middle of a verse at the pause between phrases I yelled, “MOVE A LITTLE!!” to correct the stand-rigidly-still stuff that was going on…and they did. And smiled because of it. And the sound changed immediately…it was brighter, the diction improved, the roll of the triplets rolled better, everything went up a completely discernible notch. Lesson one: if the music moves you…move!
The second lesson was driven by the aforementioned lack of sheet music and folders. There was nothing for the singers to look down at so they 1) watched me a lot more and 2) made eye contact with the congregation. A changed sound again! Throats that aren’t bent down because the singer has their face in their music make a way better sound, making a connection with the listeners immediately energizes everybody involved and looking at the conductor can keep the singing a whole lot tighter (who’d-a thunk?). We got more positive feedback on this simple piece than I can remember hearing since Easter. It was awesome.
So what does this mean to you? First, don’t be shy when you sing. If it’s a bouncy piece, bounce. If it’s got a dancing feel, dance. If it sways from side to side, sway! It’ll sound better. Second, even if you don’t have your music memorized, get your head up out of the folder and look around. You’re familiar enough with your music by now that you can do that…so do it!
And remember that a straight throat is a happy throat.
(Totally unrelated…this is blog post #200! Wow…this has evidently been going on entirely too long…)