Tried this with two groups the last couple of evenings, and it really helps with the forward motion of the song.
Not sure (yet) why it is that most us who are directors and singers – choristers, and soloists alike – have such difficulty thinking in paragraphs rather than stultified phrase after phrase after phrase. (Which I guess is a big step up from note, note, note.) But it seems that while our conscious minds have a problem with this, apparently our inner ape doesn’t.
Bend slightly forward from the waist and bring both arms all the way up to one side. (If it’s the right side, your right arm will be almost straight up beside your head, and your left upper arm will probably be in front of your face)
Let the arms relax completely and drop in front of you – swinging all the way over and up to the other side.
Now do this in time with the pulse of the music. If the tempo is fairly fast, you may need to let the arms swing once every bar (or two). For slower tempi – every half bar. The important thing is that the swinging drop of the relaxed pendulum arms sweeps you into the middle of each phrase.
When the arms are allowed to swing in synch with the pulse of the music, one phrase just sweeps into the next, and the breath happens automatically. In addition to this, the beginnings and ends of phrases become naturally more tapered when the arms are at the top of their pendulum swing.
When everyone’s pendulum swings become synchronized, this also has the effect of creating more and more energy and momentum with each phrase.
A couple of notes:
Directors – you will have to be completely unfettered in your exaggeration of this movement, or they’ll all be too restrained to even attempt the move.
Choir members should move apart from each other, and away from hard surfaces – such as the backs of pews – to avoid any unexpected first aid situations. It would be unfortunate if a bass had to go home and try to explain a shiner.