As my groups’ performances and competitions approach, my focus is now backing off on my directing and trusting them to do everything we’ve rehearsed. Tough, especially when you know that for your chorus members, life has intervened and fully 30 to 40% of them haven’t done all the homework they had intended to do.
Fortunately for these members I’ve developed my own language of subtle hand signals. I’ve gathered some from other directors and from coaches, and some are uniquely my own – but they’re all designed to be able to draw the chorus’ attention to performance aspects that we’ve rehearsed. And chorus members themselves have all used the signals during rehearsal so that now they have a body/muscle memory of the association between the hand signal and a specific vocal technique.
Here are some examples of subtle reminders for the 30 to 40%.
Tall ‘ee’ vowel – Pull hand upward with great resistance, as if you’re pulling a heavy sweatshirt out of the muck in a marsh. This needs to be practiced by everyone, in rehearsal, as a large movement – so that the small onstage reminder by the director is enough to trigger the body memory.
Or still for a tall ‘ee’, you can do a smaller version of this one:
Solid, tall, resonant sound right to the end of the phrase – Prayer Hands Slide:
Keeping the mind excited enough to keep spinning the sound on a longer, sustained note – miniaturized, finger version of this one:
Unformed vowels, neutral mouth shape – Side to side movement of fingertips just in front of lips
Relax, the jaw – less movement:
Tuning repeated, or step by step descending notes:
If anyone reading this has any directing tricks that they’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.
Also – if you have any questions about anything that I might be able to help out with, please leave a message in the comment section below.