Speech choir, or choral speaking, has a hallowed and proud tradition. The first plays put on by the Greeks featured choruses of speakers. Today, speech choir is a popular teaching tool, as well as a performing art in itself. Speech choir operates like a musical choir, minus the music. Instead of singing, speech choirs perform spoken-word pieces, like poems. Speech choir requires technical skills that must be honed and remembered in both rehearsal and performance.
The most important part of any performing art, from playing an instrument to acting in a play, is breath. While we breath involuntarily all the time, many green performers forget to breathe while on stage. Mark your speech choir piece like a sheet of music, noting where it makes sense to take a breath, so you don't interrupt the word flow but have enough breath to make it through the line (punctuation marks are a good start). Breathing in performance links you with your whole group, calms your nerves, and gives your performance life.
Articulation and Diction
The audience wants to hear what you have to say. If you don't articulate, all they will hear is a bunch of mush. By practicing your articulation and diction, your words will be clear and vibrant. Say every sound of a word, paying special attention to the beginning and ending letters. Strive to make every word lucid and colorful. Diction is a learned skill; articulate strongly in rehearsal and in your everyday life. People will notice how well you command language.
Connection to the Group
A speech choir is a living organism made up on individuals, never forget that. You aren't performing a monologue, you are a part of a group performance. Onstage, the choir is your family. The best speech choir performances are presented by groups that are in sync with each other. Listen to those around you. Connecting with them will eliminate any stage fright. If anything unexpected happens (someone forgets a line, a light falls from the rafters), the group must respond and correct together.
The text is your guide; it's what the audience came to see and hear you perform. In rehearsal, commit your lines to memory (even if you are provided with the piece onstage). Performing the text requires you to know the text inside and out. Once you know what you are saying, add color and meaning to the words. Let the audience "see" what you are saying. Let your personal reaction to the words sprinkle meaning on the performance.
Based in Chicago, Barry Eitel has been writing about the city and the arts since 2005. He has written for several websites, including Chicago Theater Blog and PlayShakespeare. Eitel has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago.