Last TIP I began a series about Singing through the Eyes . . . and how the eyes reveal the inner spirit of the singer, the mood, the attitude, the depth of the singer’s identification with the song. In the Pop world this would relate to the performer’s ability to ‘sell’ a song. But selling a pop song is one thing, and reflecting the glory or light or the divine in a choral piece is quite another. However, both worlds require the singer to be self-aware and able to reveal subtleties of facial expression, specifically using the eyes.
This is because, like the old spiritual ‘Dry Bones’ . . . the eyes are connected to the eyebrows, the eyebrows connected to the cheeks, the mouth, the forehead, and even the inclination of the jaw. When one Sings through the Eyes the whole face connects to reveal the importance and passion behind a word or phrase.
I’m simply identifying an area of personal warmth that would make our music sound better and communicate more deeply if we would but give ourselves to it. Personal warmth starts with the eyes and spreads to the rest of the face, and continues well beyond the face to include subtle dynamics of posture. But it starts with the eyes and it effects how people sing.
I’m avoiding the word ‘smile’ here because smiling while one sings is pleasant but plastic, and too easily may be considered disingenuous. Besides, there is a whole range of emotions relating to operative words that have nothing to do with smiling. I much prefer to encourage my singers to identify internally with the text and Sing through their Eyes to bring it to life.
Visualize for a moment an individual singing with an expressionless face. We call it soulless, because the window to thesoul is not engaged. Now think of an individual singing with insight and intent, with self-awareness and meaning reflected in their face. That’s soulful, because the window to the heart is open and the music speaks as it should.
People differ vastly in their ability to make this happen. Some are so winsome that when asked to Sing through their Eyes they immediately do it. Others need to be brought along the path of mirrored self-discovery to the point where they can generate personal warmth when required. Still others are born stoics, resolutely refusing to open themselves to the charm demanded by the music. Sadly, this is a habit hard broken. But the leader who sets a tone of life-giving positivity and example might just get past the gruff exterior to the true person behind the barrier. I’ve seen it happen!