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posted Aug 21, 2017, 4:14 PM by Kathy Scheel
I'm working on a class that I'll be presenting at AIM (Adventures in Music) on September 17th in Sacramento called "You're Such a Character" and you may have guessed that it's about CHARACTERIZATION!  I'd like to share some of the important points with you:

  • When we perform, audiences want so much more than just hearing the right notes and words, getting the vowels to match, turning our diphthongs together, and tuning all the chords.  That's not saying that those things aren't important! Out of tune singing is very distracting!  But think of what YOU want when you go to a performance - whether it's barbershop or opera or theater or bluegrass.  You want the performers to be totally immersed in the emotional intent of the song, telling the story authentically.  To achieve this you must break down all barriers between you and the members of the audience, and cause an emotional reaction to everyone in the room.  Every art form is about expression an emotion and evoking a response - painting, sculpture, poetry, singing - and as Deke Sharon said at IES, "Singing without emotion is meaningless."
  • Contest judges are looking for specific things related to characterization - especially the Expression and Showmanship Judges.  The Judging Category Description Booklet (JCDB) has some great guidance on this, including (OSC, see attachment that will be sent to you via email).
  • To achieve characterization we use:
    • MUSICAL tools - the song/arrangement, vocal skills, resonance/blend, interpretive plan, dynamics, tempo, texture, nuances, word delivery, phrasing.
    • PHYSICAL tools - choreography, costumes, body language, facial expression, size of gestures, hands, and especially the eyes.
  • It's extremely important that ALL members are performing at the same level of energy and commitment to the character.  This takes individual work - in front of a mirror or a videocamera.  You can use your own smart phone to check your progress frequently - be sure to keep the first video so you can look back on it later and see just how far you've grown!
  • Read the lyrics to the songs we are singing and embrace the following characters:
    • Happy Together:  This is about YOU as a member of OSC, loving the friendships, the music, the performing, the sharing, the joy!  Be the very best version of yourself and let it soar over the audience.
    • All the Way:  You are Bess, and you are falling in love for the first time. You are passionately telling your lover the way you want to feel when someone loves you all the way, through the ups and downs of your relationship, forever.  
    • Who's Sorry Now:  You are Patsy, a defiant, strong, spunky, victorious woman who just broke up with your boyfriend, who had the audacity to laugh in your face when you told him you were done.  Well, good riddance - hey, who's the one who's sorry now, huh?
    • The Way You Look Tonight:  You are Kate, a mother who is sharing a special moment with your baby boy as you snuggle him after bath time.  He's giggling and happy and you are full of love for this wonderful, beautiful child.
    • Sweet Dreams:  Total rhythm - we'll be in black so just sing with lots of energy and spirit and unity.
    • Can't Buy Me Love:  You are Chloe and you're not materialistic at all; you just want love, not "things".  Too many people get hung up on diamond rings and such, but you don't care about that stuff - you just want love.
    • All the Things You Are:  Your name is Emma and you have dreamed and dreamed of true love and you are astonished that you have actually found your adventure! Your heart is beating faster and your are floating on a cloud.
    • Somebody to Love:  You are Tammy, a young woman who works at McDonald's and everything about your life is melodramatic.  You are filled with teen angst while your body is filled with rhythm and energy as you express your strong desire to find somebody to love!
It takes a lot of trust in your fellow singers - trust that they are doing the personal work on this important facet of performing and putting in 100% of effort.  Do everything you can to honor that trust.  Put in some work every day - starting with excellent vocalizing with maximum resonance on EVERY breath, adding the natural phrase flow, vowels, dynamics, breath support, and incorporate the characters of each song every time you rehearse.  All of your skills will get stronger as you continue to incorporate all of them into the whole package!  It's very exciting and empowering!  When you know you've put in the work and you are confident that you know what you're doing, you are FREE to SOAR on stage!