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Magic Choral Trick #276 Why?

As Directors, Choreographers and Music Teams, we really need to keep this question foremost in our minds as we decide on the interpretation of a song.

I’ve often heard and seen both choirs and Barbershop choruses do something interpretively that makes absolutely no sense, and so ends up as a distraction, not an enhancement.

Vocal devices like the mezza di voce leap immediately to mind – crescendoing, then diminuendoing on the one note/syllable. Yes, it’s a demonstration of vocal prowess, because it’s tough to sing cleanly – but under what extraordinary emotional circumstances would this express a deeper part of the text?

Perhaps if we were singing a long note on the word ‘love’, a mezza di voce could indicate the sweep of the initial passion, then the progression to the quiet intensity of the lifelong love…

But this seems a bit precious to me – and how the heck would you get your face to let the audience know that this is what you intended?

The answer to ‘Why?’ is always found in the text, and if the song is well written, the music will amplify this. There are usually several ways to interpret any song, but whatever way we choose needs to express a natural and satisfying emotional flow.

So when we add a crescendo, an accent, a vocal colour change, a tempo shift or a choreography move, it needs to make sense.

Lovely sound and beautiful choral technique takes us only halfway there. Answering the question ‘Why?’ will take both singers and audience the rest of the way to a full, rich experience.

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