Choir Practice (Week 6 out of 10)

March 11, 2010

I almost didn’t attend this week. Working as an actor under a strong director or producer, working as a chorister under a strong conductor is all about dogged subservience to one person’s vision. It’s of course masochistic, but the rewards are worth it. In absenting myself this week, I would have set myself up for some quite exquisite torture next week. The process is not dissimilar to that of a personal trainer who is asking for more, for my own good. I learned this week, from a performance of a chamber opera for deaf students, assisted by two signers, that the Auslan sign for “stone” is the index finger pointing at one’s chin. Given elaborate explanations at previous choir practice sessions about the difference between a loose jaw as opposed to a loose chin (and how one is not the other), I’m seeing singing pedagogy everywhere I go.


Main points this week:

* unless the air is allowed to come up, or be pushed up, from the lungs, singing in tune will falter

* be aware of maintaining an open mouth at all times, whether or not there is any sound issuing forth (!)

* think vowels and working the soft palate before working the lips to sound/sing words

* sing the whole thing in vowels – only when they’re correct start “half”-adding consonants and finish up eventually with some lip activity.

* I am the Instrument. For one who’s been playing instruments outside my body all my life, this is an amazing realization!

Implications for Medieval/Renaissance music study:

* consider the breath and voice dynamics involved in singing Kyrie eleison. Watch how the breath and voice moves through these vowels from the lungs initially, “ky”  through loose tongue (“r) and the vowels and the “el” to get the tuning right, o a finish with “son”, a bright soft palate sound. The perfect way, honoured over centuries of Western singing, of warming up a voice and getting all the necessary components ready.

* Godhead here in hiding: start and and end on the same note C, first line rising and falling through the hexachord, falls nicely in most people’s range. A nice slur in each of the four lines.


I was out of the firing line this week, most attention going to convincing the women their ‘natural’ voices lay – a lot higher than they anticipated. I heard some astounding Cs from women who thought they had no singing voice!


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