Bridging Vocal Science and the Choral Rehearsal

Christine Howlett

As choral conductors, we all offer strategies and tools to aid our singers in singing more beautifully and with better technique. In preparing a choir for an upcoming performance, however, mindfully integrating aspects of healthy vocal technique is sometimes lost to the rigor and time constraints of ensuring that the music is learned.

Demonstrating a series of healthy exercises, this session will focus on practical applications of vocal technique that will  quickly  create positive changes with your singers of all ages. Grounded in recent voice science research of Titze, Verdilini Abbott, Bozeman, Smith, Sataloff, Miller and others, we will discuss semi-occluded vocal tract postures, explore how and why these exercises work, and when to use them. By using these techniques during warm ups as well as integrating them throughout rehearsals, these exercises will help build healthy vocalism and technical awareness.

The lecture-demonstration will be structured around a series of common issues we encounter with our choral groups including (but not limited to):

How can I improve the intonation of a certain section or the choir as a whole?

How can I improve a breathy tone?

What can I do to correct a strident or pushed vocal production?

When should we modify vowels? Are the rules the same for all voice types?

I can see my singers breathing, but I’m not convinced they are “singing on the breath.” Help!

These, and other questions, will be addressed by demonstrating technical exercises with the conference participants. We will show short video examples of different ensembles from Vassar College and Cappella Festiva (a youth choir and adult community choir) exhibiting a range of ages and abilities, as well as individuals, who will also demonstrate these exercises.

We will also provide the following to the conference participants:

Handouts with clear explanations of the exercises

Access to a resources webpage, specifically designed for conference participants, which will

include a detailed bibliography and a compilation of important online resources

A limited number of “choral-swag-bags” will be available which will include (inexpensive!) tools

to engage and inform your singers.