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Magic Choral Trick #305 If You Sustain It, Lift It

Many thanks to a wonderful coach, Judy Comeau, for this one.

For electricity to inhabit the sound something needs to be done with every single sustained note. It’s never enough to put the note out there and just hang onto it for the requisite number beats.

Sustained notes show up more often at the ends of phrases than anywhere else, so lifting them will not only add excitement to the note itself, but will also create eager anticipation of the next phrase.

So what do I mean by ‘lift’? Ah – now here we get into the slightly mystical realm of notes infused by the intensity of specific thoughts. (I’ll write later about the kind of lifting that needs to be done when we want to sustain the volume, or dial it down)

When I use my palms up lifting gesture the listener would hear the chord getting louder – usually during the second half of the sustained chord.

However, if I were to say to my choruses “Get louder when I do this with my hands”, I would get a bearing down kind of volume change, which would likely encourage more muscle in the sound – which leads to flat singing, tension, and less excitement, not more.

If I ask for lift, I’m asking them to take flight, and some part of the limbic brain gets it – less tension, not more, and more air, as if I’m asking them to latch onto the next thermal.

So at this point, though the listeners hear a volume change, they also hear more joy, excitement and forward motion.

Or ideally, they may notice nothing at all except the intensity of the story that’s being communicated by the singers. Which would make what we’re doing true Art.

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