Often in a volunteer choir setting, we get so tied up between notes, blending, rhythm, and breathing that we completely forget to communicate through our facial expressions. Facia espresso…what’s that? Let me give you a couple of examples.
Examples of Facial Expressions
My husband is a pastor, so my four little ones weekly sit with me or a close relative in church. When I look over and see them about to hop up and run out the door, or poke one of their siblings, I look at them and mouth, “NO!”. Not a sound comes out of my lips, but they know exactly what I mean by seeing my mouth clearly forming the words. If fact, they can get the message without a single word. You know the look?
Let’s think of another example. A child waves goodbye from their bedroom window as you drive away. They’re frantically waving their hands and shouting goodbye and blowing kisses. As they are inside you cannot hear them, but you can see their love and excitement as they send you off or perhaps their sadness showing that they will miss you.
Facial Expression Tips
In both of these cases the sender gives a message to the recipient without the use of sound. This non-verbal language helps to communicate the message of a song. But how do we achieve this? Here are a few ideas to help:
- Think carefully about the words. As you think about the words and their definitions, their meaning should start to appear on your face. For example, you don’t want to look like you just burnt your toast when you’re singing “I’m so Happy and here’s the reason why…”. Likewise, you don’t want to be smiling joyfully while singing, “Christ Jesus lay in death’s dark bands”.
- Imagine the context. Try to imagine what you are singing. If you are singing “Calvary Covered It All”, then picture Jesus on the cross with the angry mob about Him and Mary weeping at His feet. (Just remember to keep your finger on the music in case you lose your place!)
- Think about the audience. Sometimes I like to pretend that I am singing to a little child. Have you ever watched a mother sing to her baby? What a beautiful sight to see: her eyebrows animated and her mouth opened wide. Baby is fully engaged watching a master communicator at work. Try it, and pay attention to your own face.
- Make Eye Contact. Don’t stare, but have you ever tried to talk to someone who was staring at their feet? ‘Nuff said.
- Raise your eyebrows. No, not permanently, but try it occasionally where appropriate.
Recently one of my own volunteer choir members was unable to sing due to illness. They came to me after the service and said they understood what I meant about facial expressions after watching the choir sing. Yay! This made my day!
So, if you sing in a choir, why not give a few of these tips a try. Or, if you direct, encourage your choir to use their facial expressions to communicate the message you are singing. I’d love to try your tips for facial expressions, so please write them in the comment section below, and I’ll let you know how we do! Thanks!
For related post, see Blending Voices in the Volunteer Choir.