Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Terrific Tuesday - How to Find The Emotion Needed to REALLY Sing a Piece

As a 13 year old singing student, I had the dubious pleasure of learning "Hast Thou Seen But a Bright Lily Grow" to sing for the Music Festival Competition.  I had no idea Ben Johnson had written it.  I also had no idea what it meant.  I just know that I did not like singing it but I sang it like my life depended on it because I wanted to beat out my arch rival, Jeanine.  I did!  Apparently, that was the emotion that got me through that song.   Notice how these words have been modernized.

Have you seen but a bright lily grow                                                                                                     Before rude hands have touched it?
Have you marked but the fall of snow  
Before the soil hath smutched it?
Have you felt the wool of beaver,
Or swan's down ever?
Or have smelt o' the bud o' the brier,
Or the nard in the fire?
Or have tasted the bag of the bee?
O so white, O so soft, O so sweet is she!

I mean really - SMUTCHED - for a 13 year old?  I have been checking on You Tube and the seriousness of the tenors singing this poem is a glory to behold.   Now, that is not the tune I remember but apparently, they are finding something in those words I still do not. 

To present a song and honestly connect with your audience you must FEEL something.  My passion to win got me beyond the non-understanding of this poem.  There must be a passion there.

1.  WORDS - The words in the poem above certainly have great meaning and as an adult I sort of get what Ben Johnson was saying but would ever sing that with passion?  Nope!  It doesn't mean that others don't, however.  If the words are saying something that really hits you where you live then let those create the passion to make this the best song it can be.  For many in E.T.S., the words in "You Raise Me Up" or "Wonderful World" really create that depth of feeling.

2. HARMONY - Sometimes, it is the intricacy of the harmonies that can make emotions flow.  Once you have mastered a particularly tricky or rich harmony and understand how the parts work together and why, the piece goes beyond just presentation and enters the heart.  Then, it connects. We have 3 really tricky chords in "Over the Rainbow" that took some doing to get just right.   Now, when we get to that spot, it gives me chills and audiences have remarked similarly.

3. BODY LANGUAGE - If you slouch, lean back or just look rather dour, your audience with lose interest.  Lean into your music with a balanced stance, good posture, lowered chin, and above all dancing eyes.  Your eyes tell the tale.  Sometimes, you can smile with your mouth but most often it is only your eyes that can tell the story without affecting the necessary rounded vowels .  Whether you are having fun or feeling the love or deep sad emotions telegraph same to your face.  Your music will be so much more interesting to sing and you will create that bond with the listeners.

4. CONDUCTING -  There are as many opinions on how best to conduct a choir as there are people. My personal style is to use my hands not a baton which would be very dangerous to the safety of those in the front row.  I am told, I really get into the music.  I try very hard not to distract so there is a fine line between getting too involved and just enough to help the choir "get it".  I loved the conductor from The Lion Sleeps tonight.  Now that elicits emotion that easily transfers to the audience.

Get the words to mean something.  Enjoy the music you are making.  And above all HAVE FUN!!

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