Choral Verse Speaking Elements: The Director and The Choral Group
The Director of the Choral Group
Since choric interpretation is a group work, acting together as one, there is the need for a director to direct the rehearsals of the group. In choric interpretation, the leader or director plays a very important role and for this reason, he must possess certain qualifications. First of all, he must be a lover of poetry and must be able to read it well. He must be enthusiastic about verse speaking and must have a rich background and understanding of both English and American poetry and be familiar with the history of poetry.
He must be able to stimulate the group into analytical study of the poems without tearing the poems to pieces. He must lead the group surely into the techniques of expression and be sensitive to sound effects, coloring, sound-sense values, melody, and rhythm. In addition, he will find some knowledge of music to be beneficial, for the musically trained ear can easily detect pitch levels and is able to feel and communicate the beat of rhythms quickly.
In view of the fact that choral verse speaking is a group performance, it requires rehearsals. Therefore, the director of the choral verse group must bear in mind these guidelines for effective choral verse recitation: it is a wise director who works as far back in the room as possible so the group becomes accustomed to projecting past the edge of the platform. As the group gets used to working together, keeping its attention concentrated on the material, and sharing it with the audience, the director can step aside. In the last phases of the rehearsal, the director should not need to do more than give an occasional corrective signal.
The most he needs to do during the performance is to give an unobtrusive signal from wherever he is seated in the auditorium. However, the director must remember one fact - he must not stand in front of the choir during performance as the attention of the group and of the audience will be focused on him. This act results in the loss of mental contact and lack of directness. The director should not also stand at the footlights and "conduct" the performance of a play. If the choir is ready for performance, it is ready to work without the waving arms and mouthed syllables of the director. His obtrusive physical presence during performance violates three basic rules of good interpretation. First, it calls attention to the mechanics of the art; second, it detracts from the sharing of the selection; and third, it interferes with directness and hinders communication.
The Choral Group Member and His Responsibilities
Usually, the chorus is made up of twenty members which is the ideal number for choric group performance. The director usually divides this group into voices made up of girl's high, medium, and low and of boy's high, medium, and low. Then, the group divides the material into various units and the voice group in which the individual member in a part will not possibly speak the entire selection. However, each individual member is responsible for the whole selection so that the individual and the unit will fit smoothly into the total effect. For this reason, early rehearsals of the group will be done in unison.
If you become a member of the choral group which will give a public performance of poetry, you must bear in mind some pointers that will develop precision and perfection of performance. As an individual member of the group, you must discover each separate element in the selection so you will know what you have to work with. Then, you must put the material together again. Much of this will be done during discussion with the group but you must know from individual study the denotation of each word, the method of organization, and all the details you have learned to study.
As you work with the group, you must learn to give your own ideas of interpretation and must work harmoniously with the group to achieve success of performance. Should disagreements as to the meaning arise, the group as one must reexamine the literary piece together and must arrive at a common response. If you let the author have his way, you are almost certain to work toward the same effect. Until the entire group reaches agreement, you will discuss and analyze, as you rehearse, because the audience must receive a unified effect.
Remember that individual analysis remains the first step in choric interpretation. After you have completed this analysis, you must work on your techniques of voice and body to achieve the best possible communication of all the parts that make up the whole. Remember that a group is only as effective as each individual member working on it. You will soon learn to hear the others in relation to yourself and blend your techniques with theirs. Don't be afraid to speak out and make use of all you have learned. Your director would rather tone down a group than try to force life into one that is tentative, with everyone waiting for someone else to speak out. How much you work along between group rehearsals will make all the difference.
As you begin to work aloud on the selection, pay particular attention to your enunciation. Each word must be clear and distinct. This is even more important with a group than with a single reader because a slurred vowel or muffled consonant, multiplied by the number in the group, makes the reading unintelligible to the audience. Remember, controlled volume and a good firm tone is the result of proper breathing. Vocal energy is of utmost importance in choric interpretation.