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Magic Choral Trick #297 Show It, Then Sing About It

Got a new Presentation phrase from this month’s BHS Harmonizer magazine.

“Show it, then sing about it.” This is another way to describe ‘telegraphing’ – creating the next phrase’s emotion near the end of the phrase that’s being sung. This happens in normal conversation all the time:

“I’m going to be driving all the kids to the movie on Saturday (insert shocked, surprised face here) Oh my goodness! I forgot that I have that gig! I won’t be able to drive them!”

As the thought occurs, the face shows the shock – then we say what it is that we’ve just thought about. In order for a song to be believable, this process gets turned around a little. We need to establish the emotion of a phrase, then create that emotion for ourselves at the end, or just before the end of the previous phrase – as if that thought had just occurred to us.

As a director, I’m used to constantly thinking a note or a phrase ahead – giving reminder cues to the chorus in time for the singers to see and react to them. But a singer’s brain is filled with so many other elements, that thinking ahead tends to get lost in the shuffle – especially if there’s a director out in front who’s handling that aspect. However, with drill, this too can become just another good singing habit.

This could be rehearsed in the warm up on a vowel/technique exercise. Just before coming to the first breathing spot, a sign is held up (wistful, frightened, contented) and faces all change together before the breath is even taken. The next phrase is sung with that emotion – until near the end, before the breath – when the next sign is held up. This may have to be done in slow motion for a while.

Magic Choral Trick #101 Telegraphing

If you’ve spent much time around small children you’ll know that they often make up songs about what they’re doing, or how they’re feeling. This is song writing in its purest and most honest form – no rewrites – no second guessing. You can watch them form the next thought, then sing it.

The best songwriters understand this progression and development of ideas through the song. This unfolding of thoughts and emotions is probably one of the reasons that we wanted to sing a particular song in the first place.

However, as we rehearse and rehearse the vocal aspects of the piece, we often become desensitized to the meaning of the lyrics. And our performances tend to reflect this.

Telegraphing is the process of allowing the audience to see the thought, the emotion and the intensity of the next phrase – before you sing it – as if the thought or feeling has just occurred to you. It’s the process of recapturing the song writer’s initial inspiration – line by line – and letting the audience in on the experience.

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