An Investigation of the Impact of Instruction in Facial Expressions to Depict Text Meaning on Expre

October 19, 2011 / By: Julie Enwright

The intent of this study was to determine if instruction in the use of facial expressions to depict text meaning resulted in an aural difference in expressive singing. The research questions investigated were: (1) What constitutes expressive singing in a choral ensemble setting?; (2) What criteria can be used to determine aural differences in expressive singing?; (3) What instructional techniques can be identified for teaching expressive singing?; (4) Does instruction in using facial expressions to depict text meaning result in an aural difference in singing relative to choral tone, intonation, technical singing, ensemble skills and expression?

A panel of six judges evaluated two aural and one visual recordings of the piece And Nature Smiled by Alan Koepke by members from the Centennial High School Sweet Harmony Choir. In the first aural performance (Performance A) the ensemble did not receive any instruction in singing with facial expressions. The ensemble was instructed how to sing with facial expressions for the second aural performance (Performance B) and the visual performance (Performance C). The judges completed a Choral Performance Opinionnaire that evaluated choral tone, intonation, technique, ensemble skills, and expression. Five statements were used to analyze the expressive sound of the three performances. Using a four-point Likert-type scale, the average scores given by the six judges were compiled to examine the performance's phrase shapes, articulation, dynamics, tempos, and tempo fluctuations.

Performance A had the highest average of 3.3 for Statement 4, which assessed if the tempos were consistent with the composer's intent. Performance B had the highest statement averages for the remaining expression statements. Performance B was evaluated in the following way: 3.3 for clear discernable phrase shapes; 3.3 for delivery of articulation to enhance the expressive quality of performance; 3.3 for singing dynamics that are consistent with the composer's intent; and, 3.5 for performing tempo fluctuations that enhance the poetic meaning. The average of the total expressive scores from the six judges were as follows: 15.3 for Performance A; 16.5 for Performance B; and, 14.8 for Performance C. Performance B was rated as having the greatest degree of musical expressiveness. Recommendations for further study are as follows: (1) To analyze how instruction in singing with facial expressions influences other aspects of performance, such as tone quality, intonation, ensemble skills, and technique; (2) Compare how various facial expressions change chorister's face and mouth positions; and, (3) Evaluate how the visual component of a performance influences the audience's perception of expressive singing.