Suggestions for the choral rehearsal
The second extract of the report “Vocal techniques for the young singers”
Henry Leck from the USA describes some vocal techniques especially for young singers at the "International Symposium on children and youth choral music" in Guangzhou, 2012. This extract of the report is addressed to conductors and includes tips for a different choral sound.
Often conductors or singers know something could be better but do not know how to go about changing the sound. Experimenting with vocal changes will not only allow you to make basic choices in tone, but will give you the tools to correct intonation difficulties and make artistic stylistic choices. How do you teach a choir to sing with widely divergent character? Often our terminology is confusing to the singers. “Sing brighter. Sing light. Sing higher.” What do we really mean? A simple way of helping a young singer achieve stylistic differences is to apply the matrix of sound as illustrated in the chart below.
Weight and Timbre Matrix
To encourage understanding, explore combinations of the four basic elements with your singers: light, heavy, bright, and dark.
Students respond enormously to colour. You can ask them, “What colour is this particular piece?” Some will say green, some blue, yellow, or brown. Ask the whole choir to sing bright yellow and their tone will transform. If you instruct them to sing the same piece orange, their tone will alter. When you use purple, their tone will modify again. If all chorus members have the same colour in mind, the sound becomes unified.
MEANING OF THE TEXT
Choral music is unique in its use of language. Many times, however, the text is too difficult to understand because of poor enunciation. Consonants must be emphasized in proportion to the vowel sounds. Even more than good diction, singers must learn to give weight to certain syllables over others. As an example, two syllable words usually stress the first syllable in English. Inexperienced choirs often kick the last syllable of a phrase in order to get rid of that phrase to get a breath for the next. The ends of phrases are meant to be lighter (feminine endings). Singers should use efficient breath so that they are less likely to kick the end of the phrase. Refer to chapter two for a discussion of the three types of breathing.
CONNECTING TO THE MEANING THROUGH DETAILED CONTEXT
In choral music there are many “parrot” choirs. These are choirs which learn all the text, pitch and rhythms, but do not think about the text as they are singing. It helps a choir to expand upon the meaning of the text. For example, where did this person come from? What are they wearing, what happened to bring this about? I have found the book, Choral Charisma by Tom Carter, published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing to be very helpful.
There was a time when a choir could stand fixed on choral risers, sing beautifully and be fully satisfying. That was at a time before big screen televisions and Imax theatres. However in this age of strong visual stimulation, it seems to me a choir needs to do more. Just as we would never feel satisfied in a concert listening to a violinist who never looks involved and never moves, I believe the choirs which exhibit full visual artistic intention will grasp the hearts and spirits of an audience more often. The choral art deserves to be seen artistically as well as being heard."