[Perform-Talk] Questions about Stage Presence and Choral Performance

Katelyn MacIntyre katelynmacmusic at gmail.com
Tue Aug 2 07:35:02 UTC 2016

Hi Cricket!
Welcome to the list! I believe we also met at the airport in Florida. That's wonderful you will be in choirs this year! I have sung in choirs for almost 20 years in several countries, and I absolutely love the collaboration and beauty that can only be achieved by choral music. Usually one of the first questions a conductor will ask me when singing with a choir or soloing with an orchestra is "can you see my hands at all?" After assuring them it's not going to matter how close I stand to them, I usually tell them that I will just breathe with the rest of the choir or the conductor themselves if in a solo setting. This has never been a problem for me. Generally, the entire choir, or at least your section – soprano, alto, etc. – will start the phrase together, and thus must breathe together beforehand. It's rather easy to listen to the people around you breathing, and even if you come in a split second after they do, no one will be able to tell. I've never tried having the conductor count before, but that definitely seems like a reasonable accommodation if you are comfortable with that, though I can see how that may be distracting and take away from the ambience of the piece. Hopefully the above suggestion might be helpful to you. You could even ask the person next to you to slightly lean against your arm when the conductor is making their prepatory gesture so you have more time to prepare your breath. Of course, this is primarily for a cappella pieces. When there is accompaniment that begins before the singers come in, you should have no problem knowing when your entrance is based on memorization of this in rehearsals.
As far as hand gestures, dancing, movement etc., I would first ask your teacher to be as verbal as possible when explaining the movements the choir is supposed to do as she teaches them. If it's not clear what something is, I usually ask to put my hands/arms over someone else's to feel what they are doing rather than having someone try to manipulate my body not knowing what the ultimate goal is. This could be the teacher or even the student next to you if they understand the movement. If there are still questions, you could ask the teacher to show you the dance/gestures at another time when you can have more one-on-one attention if you feel they are going to fast in the regular rehearsal, or maybe even ask a friend to clarify some things. Everyone has their own method of learning movement, so you may find that somethings work better for you than others. Remember that you will most likely not be the only one new to movement on stage though, so don't be afraid to ask questions!
As far as stage presence, I'm sure there are many opinions and much advice on how to get more confident, but first I would say just be yourself. If it makes you feel more comfortable, and you are performing at your school or somewhere in town, you can get some time on the stage before hand to be comfortable with the layout, risers, etc. As you sing and act the songs, think about the text and lyrics – what are you singing about? What is the emotion in mood of the piece? This will help you portray stage presence already as you present an attitude in alignment with the music you're singing. Good posture and self-confidence are always helpful. Don't forget to flex/slightly bend your knees though! Just enjoy making music with the people around you. If the song is joyful, smile! If it is somber, think about the depth of the text. That's where it all begins. Sorry if that sounds a bit vague, but I hope it is helpful in someway.
Please feel free to contact me with any more questions or to clarify anything I've said. I look forward to hearing what others may contribute as well. Warmest Regards,

~Katelyn MacIntyre
Vice President, National Federation of the Blind Performing Arts Division

> On Aug 1, 2016, at 7:22 PM, Cricket Bidleman via Perform-talk <perform-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Hello All,
> Apologies for the blank message. It sent before I could write
> anything. I love technology but sometimes ...
> Anyway, just a quick intro because I haven't done one yet. I'm Cricket
> Bidleman. I'm starting my senior year of high school later this month.
> I live in Morro Bay, California, which is halfway between San Diego
> and San Francisco. Almost no one has heard of it ... We did get an
> honorable mention in "Finding Dory" though.
> I'm emailing because I had some questions about choral performance. I
> will be in my school's Concert Choir and Chamber Choir this year. I've
> never been in a choir before, so I was hoping some of you could
> provide some advice. In the past, I have been in orchestras and
> things, and my music teacher would always count the beat of each song
> for me right before we performed it. Is there a way to bypass this? I
> noticed that some of the judges in our music competitions weren't so
> happy with this, and although it's a perfectly fair accommodation, I
> have to wonder if there's a better way to do things. What do y'all
> think?
> Also, Chamber Choir sometimes does some dancing with their music. Have
> any of you had experience with this? I'm an absolutely atrocious
> dancer. While I could have someone move my arms in the required
> positions and stuff, this seems a little bit unnecessary and odd, and
> I'm sure there's a way to get around that.
> Stage presence is so important, even in music. I have, however, had no
> experience whatsoever with acting or singing in a choir, so do any of
> you have any tips on stage presence as it relates to a choir? I'm so
> excited to be getting some fresh perspectives on this. Thanks! Feel
> free to email me on or off list.
> Best,
> Cricket Bidleman
>> On 8/1/16, Cricket Bidleman <cricketbidleman at gmail.com> wrote:
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