Respect Your Audience
When performing in public, the best way to ensure your performance is at it’s very best throughout, is to always demonstrate respect to your audience. This is something that quite often not all of us do.
What sort of things does respect demand?
Firstly, I think we should always assume that everyone in the audience has a perfectly good ‘ear’ and is fully capable of discerning and recognising pitch. Not necessarily being all good musicians, but being capable of hearing right from wrong when it come to singing. To assume anything less is patronising in the least and will certainly be reflected in your performance.“We are only performing to a bunch of old fogies therefor no pressure lads” does not reflect respect.
You cannot expect every member of an audience to ‘like’ every song we sing. However, even a song they don’t particularly like, will make a much better impression with them if it is performed well, honestly and in tune.
‘Eye balling’ during the performance is a clear sign that you are not focusing on what you should be focusing on and demonstrates disrespect to the audience, not to mention the person ‘out front’. The time to connect individually with the audience is once the song is completed and you are accepting the applause.
Many of the songs we sing are not always known to all of the audience and this is where performance of the lyric becomes more important. Songs consist of words and music, so any song that is sung where the words cannot be fully understood through poor articulation, is bound to lose half of it’s potential entertainment value. But it is also important to articulate the words in a manner that was intended by the composer and as we will have rehearsed them. That is, in their proper context.
How about faces and body language? Well if you think back to the occasions when we have been assessed in non barbershop competitions, one of the judges comments has almost invariably been “you appeared to have been enjoying yourselves” Any obvious enjoyment displayed by performers effects the enjoyment of the audience. Insincerity will have the opposite effect and can be spotted a mile off.
Appropriate body movement will also help to add credibility to the intended ‘meaning’ behind the lyric, The key word here is appropriate. Exaggerated individual movement or competing with the conductor out front is not appropriate.
A degree of regimentation getting on and off the risers also creates an impression of respect for the audience and the occasion.
Dress code is always important, along with uniformity of appearance. If you appear like ‘a bag of rags tied up rough’ that is not demonstrating respect for either the occasion or the audience, or indeed your fellow singers.
Involving the audience where possible. It would be surprising if every member of an audience wanted to be directly involved in our performance, but allowing some involvement where appropriate is always a good idea. It also indicates to the audience that “we are doing this for you!”
Communicating with the audience is essential in letting them know we are performing for them personally. I am not thinking of relating the life’s history of each song, but appropriate background information can be most welcome and also gives the opportunity to include a spot of humour into the performance.
There is nothing more disrespectful to an audience that to be late starting, so you should always ensure you are available, suitably dressed and prepared to start on time.
Finally, choice of repertoire. Fortunately, in this area we are unlikely to have problems as barbershop arrangements are, by definition, suitable for performances to maiden aunts. However, there can be seasonal or ‘special occasion’ considerations that need to be made in order to meet the expectations of the audience we are performing to.