Let's Go To the Movies
Every movie has music that enhances certain scenes. An activity I call GOING TO THE MOVIES is a great way to help students inject emotion into their performance.
First ask, “Who remembers a time where music amplified the emotional impact of a movie scene?” Hands go up. Then I ask, “For what movie would this piece be the soundtrack? What story would this music enhance?”
Next, ask them to write a short narrative that describes a scene from a movie that the music would enhance. They may draw from their own experiences or make up something completely fictional. The student should not search for a scene in an existing movie; they are to write this scene from scratch.
The third step is to read the assignments and compare them to your vision for the song. Do these movies convey the emotion you wish to convey? If so, great! If not, remind them that no one is “wrong.” You might read to the class the movie that you feel best matches your vision, or a movie you wrote as the director to illustrate your take on the music.
Once we did this for Norman Dello Joio’s “Come To Me, My Love.” (Lyrics in parenthesis.) The student with the most impactful movie described an old man standing on his porch at night, missing his deceased wife (Come to me in the night. Come to me in the speaking silence of a dream). He lovingly recalls images of her face (with soft and rounded cheeks and eyes as bright as sunlight on a stream). He begins to sob as emotion overwhelms him (Come, come back in tears... my love of finished years). As he regains composure he looks to the stars, hoping to rejoin her soon (and whisper low, as long ago).
The last step is to now perform the piece while the singers mentally VISUALIZE THE MOVIE. This is a powerful moment, and it’s important to let the choir know it’s ok if they take a temporary hit in technical accuracy in service of emotional development. What movie? Theirs? Yours? The best in the class? Experiment. Sometimes everyone watching their own movie is more powerful due to personal connection. Sometimes everyone watching the same movie is more powerful due to unity of vision. But the music is almost always more powerful WITH the movie than without.