Monthly Archives: January 2018

Magic Choral Trick #375 The Danger of Words That Begin With ‘W’

Synchronizing the onset of sound is tricky at any time, but especially so when the first word begins with a ‘w’.

If the word begins with only a ‘w’, as in the word ‘we’, there’s a tendency to try to begin the sound through tightly puckered lips before the ‘ee’ vowels start popping out all over the chorus.

I’ve found that the most effective way to lock in to the sound onset is to have everyone breathe in through the shape of an ‘oo’ vowel, then without closing the mouth for a ‘w’ as we would when speaking, sing the ‘we’. I used to ask people to actually sing a very fast ‘oo’ before they switched to the ‘ee’ vowel, but that took too much brain power. Now I just ask them to sing ‘we’ beginning with a more open lip shape.

The real trouble lies in onset words that begin with a ‘wh’ combination.

For some reason that I still can’t fathom, when it’s a ‘wh’ combo, people love to do these 2 things – scoop up to the first pitch, and/or add a preceding ‘huh’ or ‘hoh’ – especially when they feel emotional intensity is called for.

Huhwhhherever you are.

The ‘h’ sound in the ‘wh’ is so rarely used in spoken English these days that I prefer to just leave it out altogether.

And so my approach would be the same as for the plain ‘w’

Breathe in through the ‘oo’ shape, then just sing the word, beginning from that more open lip position. People are also mystifyingly less likely to scoop up to the first note when they use this approach.

Wherever would become ‘Wear’ever.

So much of what we do to emulate natural speech patterns involves singing word sounds, not words, and this is an example of that strategy. I’ve never had even one audience member mention to me that they’d missed the ‘h’.

Magic Choral Trick #374 When a Quartet Steps Out of the Chorus to Sing

We often forget to talk about this aspect of stage etiquette until we’re about to walk out to sing.

Sometimes when I want to give the chorus a small singing break during a gig, I ask a quartet to sing a couple of songs.

When a quartet (or soloist or a small group from the chorus) steps out to sing, a chorus member’s job is to keep the audience’s attention on the action, and by their own attention, create excitement about the quartet’s performance.

So here are the rules

1. Watch the quartet. Don’t let your eyes wander away to the ceiling, the floor, your fingernails, or to someone in the audience that you recognize. Your listening is just as much a part of your performance as is your singing. Please don’t fiddle with your hair or glasses, blow your nose, or chat with your neighbour.

2. See post #373. Your lips need to be relaxed and slightly open. Otherwise you’ll look annoyed or bored – which will draw attention away from the performers. If you look annoyed, the audience will start imagining that there’s an interesting story there, and get distracted. Even if you’ve heard the quartet’s song a thousand times, you need to create the impression that you’re enjoying yourself. If nothing else, gratitude is in order – they’re letting you take a break.

3. When they finish their song, do not applaud!! Smiling and beaming with pride is appropriate. The quartet is part of your group and applauding them reads to an audience as if you’re congratulating yourselves. Clapping is the audience’s job. Performing is yours.

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