Laughing in Music

2 videos attached.

It never occurred to me that the singing of Fa la la could be the translation of laughing in song.

In many of our rehearsals at the Webb-Mitchell Centre for Choral Studies, the singers have a difficult time moving while singing. The notion is that singers have a stance almost like that of a soldier. They plant their feet and they don’t move. Of course, no movement at all only sets up a perfect scenario for tension throughout the entire body. This in turn affects the breathing. This tension and shallow breathing will of course have an impact on intonation and phrasing.

We are working hard to add movement, even if very slight, with everything we do. Kinesthetic movement with the well- known canon Dona Nobis Pacem has become the standard way we end our rehearsals. It surely sends the ladies home completely relaxed and dreaming of the beautiful sounds they have experienced in our lovely acoustic space.

We have added many vocal exercises that move from a very bright ah to a very relaxed ah. We are working to keep the tongue down and throat open so that we may support our sound with air. We have actually gone to the other extreme in creating a very aspirate onset in the beginning of all of our phrases. It is important for our ladies to precede words beginning with a vowel with the voiceless h to remind them of the sensation of singing on the air. Aspirating the h mimics a sigh which naturally opens the throat.

While we are busy at work understanding the difference between resonators and articulators, we are also working on our musicianship. Since we have conquered learning rhythms by putting the sequences in our feet, we have moved the sensation to our voice and are applying count singing to our study.

In this video, you will see these brave, intelligent and hard-working Chinese women, transferring  rhythms from the feet to the voice by count singing on a repeating tone. Then, you will hear the lovely English tune Now Is The Month of Maying by Thomas Morley. First, we speak the English text in rhythm, then we sing it. With the singing Fa-la-la, our focus is to let the tip of the tongue do the flipping to create a light-hearted laugh with the singing of “Fa-la-la” being sure to not engage the jaw.

You will also hear the r used in the word merry. We later changed the American r to a flipped r because it was just causing too much trouble for our non-native speakers.

I highly recommend this piece as it is a great teaching piece that differentiates the articulators from the resonators. The imagery of the piece is depicted beautifully in the melodic line. The phrasing is two to four measures and the text is repetitive emphasizing the importance of contrasting dynamics. In the key of F Major, it also aids in learning to sing an ascending major scale on a neutral syllable. Of course, it’s even more fun explaining what is meant by the words lad and lass, words we don’t use much anymore.

 

Published by

Lynn Swanson

Executive Artistic Director Milwaukee Children's Choir

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