John Parker's Top 8 Choir Hacks for 2019-20

John Parker

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A ‘hack’ is a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something. You’ve probably heard the term used mostly with the word ‘life’ in front of it. A LIFE HACK is usually a simple and clever tip or technique for accomplishing some familiar task more easily and efficiently. So, a CHOIR HACK is a shortcut or clever tip to help you and me do choir better. I do not claim authorship of any of these. I’m simply compiling my favorites for you as I’ve collected them through the years. Please feel free to share, post in your choir room, or use them as best serves your choral efforts. Here are my TOP TEN CHOIR HACKS FOR 2019-2020:

1. LISTEN LOUDER THAN YOU SING:

This of course refers to the importance of singers listening to one another within their section. Better listeners lead to uniformity of shape and sound within their section and better balance and blend in the ensemble. (For more tips, check out our article on how to train your other set of ears

2. BREATHE IN THE VOWEL:

Singers breathing in the shape of the vowel of the first word of each phrase leads to rich, warm and unified tones.

3. BREATHE TOGETHER, SING TOGETHER:

Every action of the ensemble needs synchronization; even breathing. Breaths should be precise and rhythmic and coordinated.

4. THE MAGIC HAPPENS BETWEEN THE NOTES:

The notes on the page are not the music. They are a skeleton upon which the music hangs. A musical map if you will. The real music happens between the framework; the beautiful movement to and from each note.

5. SHOW THE MUSIC:

Each singer must fully engage face and body in the practice and performance of the music. Audiences come to life when an ensemble fully shows (sells) what they’re singing.

6. DO NOT USE YOUR VOICE AS A NAIL TO BE DRIVEN THROUGH MY HEAD:

I think this one originates with the late great Robert Shaw. Shaw is probably the KING of choir hacks over the past hundred years. I interpret this hack as the ultimate exhortation to always sing with beauty and warmth, avoiding harsh and strident tones.

7. AUDIENCE ENERGY IS EQUAL TO ENSEMBLE ENERGY:

This one is a close cousin to #5. The audience will respond in direct proportion to the amount of energy expressed through diction, tone, expression, power, clarity, etc.

8. PACK AHEAD OF TIME:

All releases come with preparation. If the ensemble doesn’t pack ahead of time, critical entrance and release points will be missed and phrases will become sloppy.

 

John Parker is a conductor, composer, clinician, author and publisher residing in Austin, TX. He can be contacted here.

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1 comment

  • Your hacks are wonderful ….very clever statements that are easily understood. After a hiatus of 7 years, I just accepted a new position at 1st Lutheran here in Washington, Pa. I will be incorporating these in my choir rehearsal for sure and also looking on your site for some easy arrangements for small choirs. Only 11 members but hoping to grow. Of course! Bobbi.

    Bobbi Heastings

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