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Magic Choral Trick #278 Snit Thinking

On Sunday evening I was working with a pick up choir for a special event and was once again reminded of the contribution that a little annoyed thinking can make to the sound.

When we’re slightly angry our attention is much more focused that it is when we’re in our baseline blasé state.

Directors – please don’t think that I’m asking you to give singers something new to be angry about. If we ask ourselves “What’s annoying me right now, or these days?” absolutely everybody can come up with something.

What I ask the singers to do is to use that – whatever issue came up – and hold onto that emotion as they sing the specific section that I feel needs more bee sting type intensity.

With this choir we were doing a song that has an 8 bar intro, then the word Hallelujah. The notes weren’t difficult, but the entrance was messy, and the initial vowel – the ‘ah’ – was unfocused.

I asked the choir to start churning up the Snit Thinking – during those 8 bars of intro – about whatever issue in their lives was bugging them, and then to release it on that first Hallelujah, like a rather nasty bee sting.

Much more focused, and definitely more synchronized.

Now, is it appropriate or even ethical to encourage negativity on an Hallelujah?

Probably best to use this as a rehearsal tool only. The singers will become accustomed to feeling the intensity of this focus, and can then drop the Snit Thinking.

Wouldn’t be a great visual to have your choir scowling at the audience on the run up to a radiant, synchronized, focused Hallelujah.

Magic Choral Trick #270 Quiet Intensity

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.

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