Three beats in every bar. It needs to waltz.
If the songwriter knew what she or he was doing, the most important words will always show up on beat one. So the vowel on beat one needs to be formed if it’s one of the 5 big deal Italian vowels (Ah, Oh, Ee, Ay, Oo), and sung with great clarity if it’s one of the many unformed ones – the short vowels, and the neutral vowels.
All the words that happen on beats 2 and 3 need to be sung cleanly, but with a completely relaxed mouth and tongue. No wide open mouths at all on these two beats.
Sometimes, at first this is too much of a mind bender for groups, so I start by asking them to sing only the first beat in every bar – with rests on beats two and three. Sometimes choirs find this hysterically funny. Not sure why.
Then we sing the first beat regularly, and murmur-sing the last two beats – almost inaudibly.
The last step is then to sing legato through all three beats – but with the mouths in ‘murmur’ position on the back two thirds of every bar.
One thing that can also help with a women’s or children’s group is to have them actually waltz while singing – so that the feeling of the power of beat one can be felt though the whole body.
If you have any luck getting mixed choirs, church choirs or men’s choirs to dance – please post a comment and let me know how you did it!