It’s How You Say It
In our first part of the current series, focusing on select “small” practices in rehearsal that can spawn significant results, I shined the light on “first remarks” that open our rehearsal, and the importance of setting a meaningful context immediately. The second practice is subtly connected with the first: being aware of our vocal tone when speaking to the choir.
A close colleague friend tells a story of completing a formidable workshop on classroom management, when a woman ran toward him, started speaking in a fast and furious pace, with a vocal tone that could take paint off wood. She proceeded to ask in this frenetic manner why her classroom was always in a state of entropy, why there was no sense of calm and focus. He responded to her immediately with a well-placed vocal tone, in a peaceful speed and thoughtful manner. My friend always laughs when he tells this story, but apparently rather quickly the woman got his point, stopped, and sighed an insightful, “Oh. I create all of that.”
Yes, we create frequently all of that, both the problems as well as the solutions, through the tone of voice we use and the environment we demonstrate. And this is especially important to the choral rehearsal because the way in which we use our voice in speaking is every bit as important as how we demonstrate when singing.
People have a great capacity to mimic, especially at the early stages of developing skills. If we speak in an under-energized and breathy tone when we say “good evening” we are very likely to receive an equally poor sound in the singing that is created. On the other hand, when we place our voice in a resonant pocket and exemplify energy of tone and healthy habit of speech we generate a model that pays dividends in the choral tone used by our singers.
One manner of finding an effective speaking placement is through a small two-note vocal gesture that sounds like a rising “yes,” on the phoneme “um.” The lower tone feels in the speaking voice and the second, and higher tone, is more in the little heady feel. The subsequent speaking is maintained in the position of the higher tone, supported and continued. This position for the speaking voice is healthy, resonant, and preferred over the lower and sometimes assumed “mature” sound.
Each of these observations that I am unfolding in this series support a goal of being efficient. In the current case of vocal demonstration we can be either inefficient in our personal vocal model and spend endless rehearsal time trying to talk improvement into the choral tone, or we can provide an efficient example of vocal use and phenomenally affect the result without needing further verbal correction. In many cases we can fix an issue without even raising the issue.
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