Are We in Gym Class? I Thought This Was Choir – PT III

Adding Movement To Benefit Healthy Singing In Your Rehearsal

by Contributing Author Niccole Winney

How Can I Incorporate Movement in Rehearsals?

Just do it! Movement is a natural human response, especially movement to music, which makes incorporating it into rehearsal quite simple. There are a few listed below for you to try . . .

Movement in Choral Warm-Up :

Movements that are core strengthening.

Movements that support breath energy and muscle energy.

Movements that support the sound.

YOGA POSES help with technical aspects such as body alignment, strengthening the core muscles, and connecting the breath to movement. But it also teaches focus, presence, vulnerability, patience and self-love. These yoga poses can be found at these links: https://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/beginner-yoga-poses-positions/ https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/types/forward-bends

Mountain Pose​ opens the chest and belly while grounding and elongating the spine.

Chair Pose​ strengthens the legs and back, which is helpful for standing rehearsals.

Forward Fold releases tension in the lower back. 

Warrior 1​ strengthens the arms, legs, hips and chest -considered an energizing pose.

Warrior 2 stretches the legs, hips and chest.

Downward Dog yoga pose stretches the calves, hamstrings, spine, chest and shoulder while toning the abdominal muscles. 

Energized movements ​are another way to rid singers of tension while warming up the breath and body. Many of these are good to get blood flowing to the muscles and also help improve focus and concentration. 

Shake it out​: Starting with the right hand, count out loud with each shake eight times.  Switch to the left hand counting each shake eight times. Then move to shaking out the right foot eight times followed by the left foot eight times, still counting out loud. After completing both hands and feet start the exercise over but only count to seven. Continue counting down until you reach the number 1. 

Mirror After Me:​ This is a movement exercise that helps improve focus and steady beat. All movements are done in 4/4 time. The director starts by clapping 4 beats while the choir is silent for the first 4 beats. On the second measure, the choir claps the same 4 beats that the director just completed. However, while the choir is clapping, the director makes up and completes a new gesture (such as snapping or stomping). It is the choirs job to remember what the new movement is and complete it one measure behind the director. The director may choose to make the movement as big or small as they would like. My students LOVE this game, but do not realize it is improving their memory skills, watching skills, and helping to warm up the body! 

Marching in Place: ​Get singers to loosen up. Marching causes the heart to pump blood to the muscles faster and deepens the singers breathing. If marching in place is also placed with a vocal warm up, it has the added benefit of actively engaging and strengthening the core muscles. 

Movement During Rehearsal

After involving singers in a movement based warm up, it is important to foster an environment that promotes and expects singers to move frequently in the rehearsal space. Singers need to know that it is okay to sway to the music, to be able to bend the knees, work out muscle tension or play with different hand gestures while singing in order to ease vocal and muscular tension. Furthermore, the more frequently the director uses movements throughout the rehearsal, the more likely the singers are to adopt these practices on their own. Below are some ways to incorporate movement throughout the rehearsal to make sure singers are staying engaged and tension free.

  1. Movements that ease neck and jaw tension include “pretending to”: 
    • Use a paintbrush to paint the phrase that is being sung
    • Smooth the frosting on top of a cake while singing
    • Lift the sound up and over your head
    • Draw a rainbow arch that follow the phrasing of the musical line
  2. Movements that engage the core:
    • Plie on ascending phrases
    • Sing an entire phrase while holding a squat 
    • Throw a frisbee or baseball on an ascending line
  3. Movements to improve energy and focus:
    • Tap the sternum to keep the pulse while singing
    • March to the beat
    • Mini stretch breaks, shake it out breaks, or yoga pose breaks in between rehearsing pieces. 
    • Make standing a regular expectation in rehearsal. While it may seem that standing for a long rehearsal can be tiring, choirs that stand throughout their rehearsals sing with more energy and have less vocal and mental fatigue because their muscles are more likely to be engaged and do not collapse their breathing mechanisms as frequently. 

 What If This Is All Brand New Information For My Choir?

Take time to build trust with your choir while incorporating these new ideas. Your singers may surprise you and be excited about trying something new. If they seem reluctant or uneasy, start with smaller movements and work towards bigger movements over time. 

Helpful Tips On Implementing Movement

  1. Know the pedagogical reason for asking your choir to do a movement exercise and share that with your singers. Is it to help engage the core? Is it to help create a relaxed, tall posture? To help with breath support or moving through a register break?
  2. Be confident and completely comfortable with the movements you present to your choir. ​Often, directors have to give 130% of their energy and confidence to get even a 70% engagement from their singers. If you are hesitant and uncomfortable with the activity, your singers will be too. If this is the case, practice teaching it and get comfortable with the movements several times before even presenting it to your choir. 
  3. Create a positive, trusting and encouraging environment.​ Singers have to feel comfortable and safe in the rehearsal space to truly let go and try new ideas. Experimenting and modifying movements is welcome and acceptable, so trying things on a smaller scale are better than not trying at all.
  4. Make movement in warm ups and rehearsals an expectation.​ Do not let it become routine that movement is for the warm up only.  If movement throughout all parts of the rehearsal is the norm, it will take away the novelty of doing a “new” or “strange” movement exercise and will allow singers to relax into it and reap the benefits of the exercise.
  5. Encourage singers to adopt movement for exercise at home or even in combination with their at home vocal practice. ​Simple things such as yoga, planking, daily walking and diaphragmatic breathing exercises can help strengthen muscles and will get the singer more comfortable with moving their body at their own pace. 
  6. Give it time.​ The singers will catch on eventually and gradually take ownership of their own movement. The more encouraging the director stays towards movement, the more frequently it will occur. 

Take Away

Consistent and encouraged movement in rehearsal (and performance) may be the opposite of what you have experienced. However the benefits that come with movement help singers use their instrument by weeding out unnecessary tension and focusing on what is best for their voice, mind and body.

Please check out the resources below ~

Resources

Bech-Hanssen, G. (2017, November 8). Why Your Diaphragm Could Be the Core Strength Game-Changer You’ve Overlooked. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from

https://www.yogajournal.com/teach/why-your-diaphragm-could-be-core-strength-game-ch anger#gid=ci0218f62e90002522&pid=3_straw_diaphram

Benson, J. S. (2011). A Study of Three Choral Pedagogues and Their Use of Movement in the Choral Rehearsal. Florida State University Libraries​      ​. Retrieved from https://diginole.lib.fsu.edu/islandora/object/fsu:253955/datastream/PDF/view

Berbari, G. (2017, July 26). 13 Unexpected Life Lessons You Can Learn Just From Practicing

Yoga. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.elitedaily.com/wellness/life-lessons-from-yoga/2026746

Cefali, V. (2018, September 24). A Mindful, Community-Building Choir Warm Up. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.smartmusic.com/blog/a-mindful-community-building-choir-warm-up/

Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). The real-world benefits of strengthening your core. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-c ore

Healthline. (n.d.). What Causes Muscle Rigidity? Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/muscle-rigidity#causes

Healthline. (n.d.). Diaphragm Overview. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/diaphragm

Menehan, K. (2013, June 23). Movement in Rehearsal. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.chorusamerica.org/singers/movement-rehearsal

Montigne, J. (2013, July 24). 5 Essential Yoga Poses for Singers. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.chorusamerica.org/node/3155#.UfWQExAUsHQ.facebook

Oare, S. (2017, December 30). How and Why to Incorporate Movement in Choral Rehearsals. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from

http://kansasmusicreview.com/2017/12/30/how-and-why-to-incorporate-movement-in-cho ral-rehearsals/

Niccole Winney

Niccole Winney was appointed Music Educator at Ray Marsh Elementary in 2018 and teaches general music and choir. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University in Georgia, earning a Bachelor of Music with a concentration in music education. Since 2014, she has been a member of numerous ensembles including the New South Festival Singers, the Lynn Swanson Festival Singers and the William Baker Festival Singers. From 2014-2018, Niccole served as Staff Singer and Assistant Children’s Choir Director for the St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Georgia. Alongside this, she taught piano at the Vining's School of Art in Atlanta. Recently, Niccole completed a two-year internship with the William Baker Festival Singers during their 2018-2020 concert season at which time she made her conducting debut at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Currently, Niccole is completing a Master Degree in Music Education in Choral Pedagogy from the University of Kansas and serves on staff with the William Baker Festival Singers. She makes her home in Kansas City, Kansas.

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Niccole Winney

Niccole Winney was appointed Music Educator at Ray Marsh Elementary in 2018 and teaches general music and choir. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University in Georgia, earning a Bachelor of Music with a concentration in music education. Since 2014, she has been a member of numerous ensembles including the New South Festival Singers, the Lynn Swanson Festival Singers and the William Baker Festival Singers. From 2014-2018, Niccole served as Staff Singer and Assistant Children’s Choir Director for the St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Georgia. Alongside this, she taught piano at the Vining's School of Art in Atlanta. Recently, Niccole completed a two-year internship with the William Baker Festival Singers during their 2018-2020 concert season at which time she made her conducting debut at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Currently, Niccole is completing a Master Degree in Music Education in Choral Pedagogy from the University of Kansas and serves on staff with the William Baker Festival Singers. She makes her home in Kansas City, Kansas.

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