Magic Choral Trick #116 Legato Painting
I wonder why it’s so difficult to use words to have people understand the concept of legato – especially English speaking singers.
Italian singers get it. But then Italian is a vowel heavy language – with pure vowels, so their tongues get used to moving quickly, in a relaxed way, from one clean vowel to the next.
In English there’s always a fresh new hell of tongue tension looming – from syllable to syllable to syllable.
In our early music lessons, we all learn that legato means smooth. But our music teachers are often too overloaded with the other things that have to be taught to go on and explain that legato is also the forward energy flow of the music – regardless of the articulation. A constant wash of sound. How do we understand what that actually means?
In my experience, the best way to understand this is through physical learning – and Legato Painting is one of these ways.
Have the choir imagine that they are painting the horizontal slats of a fence with a wide brush – their hand – using very thick paint. I haven’t yet experimented with different colours to see if the sound is more legato with red paint than blue or purple – but that might prove interesting. Please let me know if you try this and come up with different results because of imagining different colours!
The hand should move slowly, with isometric pressure as the phrase is being sung – for the duration of the phrase.
With enough isometric pressure, and enough thick imaginary paint, the choir will sing more on the target vowels – which is the most important element of legato singing.