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Walla Walla, WA
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Body and the Boogie:

February 16, 2023
Ben Griffin

A Day in Choir

Ben Griffin

You’re in choir and today is the performance. Your body is your instrument, so you take a moment to prepare your body. First, you massage your temples and your cheeks. Next, you relax your jaw and stretch your tongue.  

The face is complete. 

You windmill your arms until your fingies tingle, shrug your shoulders (your posture is dookie), and stretch to the ground, hanging limp like a jungle vine in the jungle. Now you dance a little boogie to wake up your body.  

The trunk is complete.  

Using reliable eunuch vocal techniques, you engage your diaphragm and relax your vocal cords. Your cords flap against each other smoothly and happily. You buzz your lips up and down, and now they’re flapping against each other smoothly and happily as well.  

The flapping is complete. 

Time to prepare your mind. You imagine gently stroking a dog. [1] You imagine running after a furry mammal, not maliciously, but eagerly nonetheless. [2] You imagine your hand is a jellyfish floating up from the deep. [3] You fix your unicorn horn upon your forehead. [4] You finger paint with oil paints. [5] (If you’re curious what these unusual pedagogical techniques are for, check the end of the article.) 

The mind is ready. 

Close to a hundred other people cram into the stands with you so that you’re smooshed between someone you’ve known for years and someone you met a few weeks ago. It’s starting to get hot; you can feel the sweat percolating in your pits and tobogganing down your vertebrae, but there's nowhere to go. You’re in a robe that feels more like a duvet cover.  

Your voice is warmed up and your body has never been warmer. Time to get into place on stage. The director starts detailing the choreography: this person follows this person (not too close, Sarah!) in this cardinal direction, stop at this tape (the white tape, not the blue), and for the love of the harmonic sequence, give yourself some elbow room.  

Somehow the mass of vocalists makes it onto the stage and under the lights. A pitch is given (the dominant, obviously *condescending chuckle*) and you start to sing. You can’t remember where you’re allowed to breathe, so you suck in air while making the right mouth shapes for the words and hope no one notices.   

Literally everyone in choir preparing to sing. Photo from by Dex Ezekiel.

You make it to the end of the piece and the director is telling you to fade out, but it’s so exposed and vulnerable, even though you’re well within your range, your voice starts wobbling, like a Beyblade almost out of juice, or some other more relatable simile.  

It’s amazing. The performance is over; it wasn’t your best, but at least you’re never going to perform the piece again because it’s seasonal.  

Congratulations, you’ve just spent a day in choir! 


Appendix I: 

  1. This is your voice gently beginning to produce sound.   
  2. This is how your vowel shape and placement project your sound outwards. 
  3. This is your soft pallet lifting to facilitate resonance. 
  4. This is to keep your sound placement consistent.  
  5. This is to encourage smooth phrasing facilitated by good breath support. 
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