Facing the Music

We have a job to do, as chorale singers – to communicate with our audience and to do justice to the music.  Singing is a complex balance of many parts of the body, but the one part that helps most with our job is the face.  An audience will remember how we LOOKED far longer than they will remember what they heard (sort of sad, but proven true in several studies).  If our faces express our involvement and engagement with the music and with the emotions behind the music and with the moment of performance itself, then the audience will feel that energy and connect with what is happening.  So, it’s not just about “looking up” (although we all know how important that is!) it’s about looking and being “in” it.

Some singers fear tension – that tension will tighten their bodies and affect their sound.  That is true, but what happens more frequently is a lack of energy and verve.  A too “relaxed” chorale singer is simply not connecting with the music and the other chorale members and the audience.  A tip is: always be at the ready, ready for action.  That feeling, of being energized, is the life in the music; we need in the softest moments as well as the booming choruses.  What the word vibrato means in everyday Italian is vibrancy.  As important to our sound as the vibrato blooming in the notes we are singing is the vibrancy in our stance, our outlook (uplook!), even the way we hold our folders, the attitude of attention and passion we bring to the moment.

There are many tricks and tips to help us create vibrato in our sound, here’s one…try it, use it as a regular practice.  Sing a five note scale with the words: mama made me mash my m and m’s.  You will FEEL the vibrato place happening in the “mask” behind your nose (“mask” behind your nose is just a metaphor for what singers mean when they talk about placing the sound correctly).  Don’t just listen to yourself (which is hard to do) FEEL the sound you are making, and when you know you have found “the place” replicate that.  And, be energized.

Oh, and, look up! We have a job to do!

– Kathleen Henry