I’ve learned that there are several useful things to know about Presentation and closing the eyes.
The first – and pretty much a cardinal rule is never to close your eyes during a performance, unless you’re singing about closing your eyes. But maybe not even then. When you shut your eyes, you shut out your audience – they can’t see in, and that’s what they really want. The subliminal message that you send when you close your eyes is that you don’t want to communicate with them.
The second useful piece of information is that when the chorus knows the song from memory, it’s amazing how much more emotion they’ll put into the song when their eyes are closed. Obviously, this should be done only in rehearsal – and works best if they’re given a few emotional marker words for any different sections of the song. For rehearsal purposes it also works well to construct an actual story as it might relate to individual members. Ultimately though, I have never found that a really specific story line will work for every member of the chorus.
If the story is about the heartbreak of a love affair gone wrong, there will be people in the chorus who can’t relate to that particular narrative. But everyone understands heartbreak – about something or someone, and disappointment or sadness.
However, whether you all choose just the emotions, or the whole story, having the chorus rehearse with eyes closed seems to allow people the freedom to sing with more expressive faces.
The third piece of eyes closed information is a really useful trick.
Although the chorus has to have eyes open at all times, the director doesn’t. I find that I’m much more in touch with the emotion of the song if my eyes are closed. I’m told by people watching the chorus that when I’m directing with my eyes closed (and I’m imagining singing the song) the singers’ faces are much more expressive!
And the singers themselves report that they felt the emotions more deeply as they watched my face.
Perhaps they also felt a little more expansive emotionally, and less guarded when I wasn’t watching them. Because of the director/choir member dynamic, many feel that they are being individually evaluated – and tend to hold back so as not to stand out. If an entire chorus is suddenly freed from me watching them, there’s no need to worry about being singled out, and emotionally, they’re free to let ‘er rip.