Improv Choral Performance

What is an improv choral performance, and how does one go?

All improvisations, no matter how loose, need a structure – need some way for the improvisers to wordlessly understand what was expected of each other. VoiceExchange has played together for many hours, finding structures that create a maximum of freedom for creative expression.

Imagine six singers on-stage. One starts: he has freedom to do whatever he wants, but he understands that he’s beginning a process of music-making with others, and so sings something that they can give answer to. The second singer has the first singer’s sound to interact with; it calls to her in a particular way, and she sings her answer to it. Again, she has complete freedom, but she understands that there are going to be more voices she will be in conversation with, and so answers appropriately.

And so it goes for a third, fourth, and fifth singer.

The sixth singer’s expected role would be to Solo, to take the audience on a journey, to make the musical texture created by the others have a beginning, and a middle, and an end. The soloist hears nuances in the texture, and might be drawn to certain details that are meaningful to her. And so, she sings her tale.

But this may not be the end of a piece. As the soloist brings her musical path to its conclusion, all singers listen very sensitively to one another, looking for cues and clues about whether each feels that this piece has said everything that they want to say with it. On many occasions, another singer feels that there is something else to say, with their own voice or with the voices of the audience.

This singer might use body language to divide the audience into two halves, left and right, and sing each half a simple call-and-response phrase. Or, some other audience-participation game; anything can happen!

When our singers feel like a piece is ready to be concluded, we again use body language and our familiarity with one another to guide the conclusion. Then it’s time for the next piece, so we re-arrange ourselves and begin again.

If your venue or event calls for improvisation and/or a uniquely interactive performance, give us a call: