Magic Choral Trick #9 The importance of knees
Given a choice, most choir and chorus members will stand absolutely still as they sing – often with locked knees.
As a director, part of my job is to convince my singers that their lives will be much, much more fun if they just give in (some will say – to the dark side) and move – even if it’s only in rehearsal. I actually prefer to watch a choir that’s physically involved in the music – as long as the amount of physical involvement is fairly uniform. If most people are moving and one person is standing absolutely still, guess who we’re all watching!
Physical movement is one of the techniques I use to keep the energy flowing right out to the end of the phrase – and to keep the excitement going past the breath and into the next phrase. My favourite end of phrase movement involves bending the knees a little, and then on the last note or two of the phrase, imagining that you’re lifting a very large beach ball – or small Volkswagon.
If your choir is very conservative – or a high percentage of them have non functioning knees – you can get a similar energy boosting effect by asking them to press their toes down into the soles of their shoes at the end of every phrase.
I sometimes ask my groups to mirror my movements as I bend my knees and do a beach ball lifting thing at the ends of phrases where I want the energy to keep flowing. There’s nothing quite so discouraging, and exhausting as having your singers quit early at the end of every phrase as you madly try to direct something powerful and legato. Singers seem to need to train themselves to feel the very physical lift from one phrase into the next. Well lubricated knees and the lifting of large, (imaginary) heavy beach balls seems to help with this training.