Posted by: boromax | December 19, 2019

New Wrinkles Journal #11

NW_Director-Chair_191219

Directors.

Directors put up with a lot, to put it mildly.

Among all of their other attributes, directors must have great patience and endurance.

Without our directors we would be just another random crowd of rudderless ne’er-do-wells doing annoying stuff that probably would never see the light of day.

That may sound unkind, but it is truly not much of an exaggeration.

Left to our own devices, New Wrinkles are a noisy, self-centered gaggle.

NW_Gaggle_191219

There’s like fifty of us, and among us there are probably sixty-seven different opinions about how we should do whatever it is we might be trying to do or what we might not do depending on whether anyone among us would choose to lead us, and we would not unanimously agree to accept their guidance unchallenged anyway.

In addition, among the more than two dozen of us there is a wide spectrum of prior experiences with music and performance. And even the most talented, educated, and accomplished among us need someone to harness and channel our energies, to correct the things we learned or practiced incorrectly for however many years, and to teach us the things we never learned.

Simply put, we NEED direction.

NW_Wheres_the_blaze

Thankfully, we have been blessed with some of the greatest direction ever in the history of humankind. Seriously.

We have vocal directors who whip us into shape with a perfect mix of tough discipline, calm explanations, creative exercises, and patient repetitions. The stories of our specific vocal directors are too rich and varied to squeeze into this article. Each of them has been a tremendous blessing to us. In the past few years it was Rebecca Sarkisian, now it is Terry Estabrook, and we have had substantial help this year from Julie Dana and David Sarkisian.

To give you a glimpse into the kind of expertise that is needed to be an effective voice coach for the gaggle that is New Wrinkles, here are just a few of the things our vocal directors must understand well enough to teach us:

  • Singing – this includes some of the factors further down on this list, but it starts with human anatomy and physiology. Our directors do not need to teach US the specifics of these things, but they do need to have a certain depth of knowledge as to what parts of the body are involved in creating a proper and pleasing vocal sound on an individual level and on various group levels, then guide us in using these body parts to best advantage for singing well.

 

  • Music-reading – This skill is certainly not mandatory, but some understanding of how music notation works is helpful. The point of New Wrinkles is to put on a show, not to create an academy of music savants; but knowledge of music notation helps greatly with learning pitch, rhythm, and expression (aka dynamics), which are core elements of performance.

 

  • Enunciation – This is among the most important things the vocal director must pound into us. We can see the lyrics. We can say the lyrics. We might even be able to sing the lyrics. But if the audience cannot understand what we are singing, we may as well drop the curtain. This includes clear, fricative consonants sounded precisely in unison, and pleasing, sustained vowel sounds.

NW_aid152997-v4-728px-Enunciate-Step-7-Version-3

  • Breathing – At its basic level, breathing is natural and instinctive. However, when it comes to singing (and even speaking in a performance context), being able to control one’s ability to breathe deeply, to dole out the captured breath judiciously, and to breathe at the right times is highly important for solo, ensemble, and choral singing.

 

  • Posture – This is related to anatomy and breathing, primarily. If we are not properly erect when singing, our body cannot adquately support the work of producing sound; and there is way more to it than “standing up straight.”

 

  • Facial expression – It is important for the audience to see you telling a story with your face, and more important, your facial expression directly affects the sounds you are making with your lips, your teeth, and the tip of your tongue.

NW_teethlipstongue

  • Timing – This may be mostly about entrances and cut-offs, but it is also about how long to hold a note, counting the beats according to the time signature, and hitting the syncopated rhythms of the lyrics cleanly and together. Besides presenting melodies and harmonies, the singers are also part of the percussion section.

 

  • Much. More. – These few things I have shown here are just the beginning. We could continue with phonation, resonance, articulation (involving coronal, labial, dorsal, pharyngeal, glottal, etc), interpretation, classification, vibratory sensation, register, plus a whole universe of italianate directional markings, and on and on.

AND the vocal director is guiding just one general element of the show. The singing.

We depend heavily on our vocal director.

Likewise, and in some ways even more strictly, we depend on THE Director.

NW_TheDirector

Our Director, David Bonetto, has been involved with New Wrinkles since its inception in 1988, primarily as a choreographer. For the past eight years he has been THE Director.

What does the Director do?

  • Vision – Developing a coherent program requires an ability to see, at least in broad strokes, how you want the final production to look and sound. Then, to get to that desired result, there are all the details of discovery, selection, and application that must happen for the show to take shape; i.e., find songs, pick the ones that work for the story/theme, assign them to specific people – individually or in groups – and put them in an order that makes sense for the story musically, tonally, and visually. No sweat, right?

 

  • Flow – The show is not just a bunch of random songs performed randomly. Each song is loved and caressed and fawned over so that it will be presented at the right time in the show by the right voice(s). It must make sense in the development of the story. Getting that right is not as easy as it sounds.

 

  • Design – We present a complete package, not just aural entertainment, but also visual and atmospheric spectacle. The set, the lights, the costumes, the props – all of it must add to and be in harmony with the message.

NW_jessie-mueller-keala

  • Movement – Hopefully, once we have learned our movements we make it all look smooth and easy. But to get it to look that way takes hard work, practice, memorization, and style. We have to learn to move the way the Director tells us to move, at the right times, in the right places, with the right people around us. The Director creates and teaches dance steps (choreography); blocking – stand right here then when THIS happens in the song go there; entrances and exits – know your cues for coming in and leaving the stage, and from/to where – Up Left? Down Right?

 

  • Mood – What works best for each number to convey the look and feel of the song to make sure it contributes to the story without distracting. This means lighting, vocal and physical style, personality, on-stage interactions among cast members.

 

  • Bridge – The primary goal of everything we are doing on stage is to get a message to the audience through the story being told and through the entertainment value of our production. We want the audience to react, hopefully with emotion and enthusiasm. That is the “bridge” between the stage and the house.

 

  • Morale – We would like to think that everyone’s morale is in their own hands, or that the cast members would make sure their cast mates stay cheerful and motivated; but some of this responsibility also needs to come from the Director. In return we must help sustain the Director’s morale, too.

NW_high-morale

  • Discipline – If all the cast members will practice self-discipline, the burdens of correction and consequences will not fall so heavily on the Director. Realistically, though, through the course of putting a show together, there will be some times when the Director will need to drop the hammer on us.

 

  • Leadership – Our eyes are on the Director. We are watching him. Ideally, he will model behavior, attitude, and focus; and we will respect his position, his knowledge, his direction, and his fashion choices (just checking to see if anyone is reading this).

 

  • Communication – The only way we will know what the Director wants with regard to all of the above is if he gets his messages across to us clearly and thoroughly. We need to pay attention, too; communication must go both ways.

NW_stutter

These are just SOME of the many requirements and considerations the directors must keep track of as we collaborate in making the show a reality.

Our directors need for us to listen and follow their direction.

We need our directors.

We love and appreciate our directors!

[Exit Up Right]


Responses

  1. As a director, I appreciate your points.

    • Thank you. It is often tedious, but always rewarding!


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