When I ask singers to sing quietly several things happen.
The tone becomes breathy and unsupported, the tempo begins to drag, and the overall energy level drops. This includes the presentation energy in both face and body.
I ask singers to intensify their thoughts – as if they were absolutely furious with someone, but had to express this while keeping the volume really low (as in a library or at church). “Don’t you ever, ever again let me see you taking money OUT of that collection plate!!!!”
I find anger is an easy emotion for everyone to access, and it always improves the tone. However, the facial presentation issues here mean that this particular emotion can be used only sparingly. Adding anger is a good first step to proving to your chorus that mental intensity can have a huge effect on the sound.
I heard Jim Henry telling his chorus (Ambassadors of Harmony) that he wasn’t asking for more volume – just more emotion.
This again is asking singers to intensify what the mind is doing – in this case by accessing more of the emotion in the text, which is the whole point of singing words and not just vocalizing. When we find something in our own lives that helps us relate to the emotion of the words, the heart can communicate more completely. Any singer can move us if it’s obvious that they’re singing straight from the heart.
We then feel more urgency in our communication – so this Quiet Intensity creates a supported sound, which has more drive and forward energy (so no dragging) and our facial/body language matches the lyrics.