English Diction in Choral Performance

A Rationale and Set of Principles for the Development of a Systematic Approach to
English Diction in Choral Performance
by Robert E. Fisher


Diction in choral music simultaneously functions as a vehicle for both the musical medium and the textual message. Nearly every choral methods and choral conducting book written in this century includes some references to and instructions for the practice of choral diction. Most of these methods, however, are not based on any sort of systematic inquiry, but rather on personal preference and other types of subjective judgments. Many of the unconscious, habitual physical shifts that occur in the production of fluent speech often transfer into song. These practices can confound both choral tone and text intelligibility. Most choral diction methods do not train singers to eliminate these perturbing speech habits in choral singing. Furthermore, choral diction methods are non-standard and plagued with inconsistency. The purpose of this study is (a) to establish a rationale for the development of systematic approaches in English diction methods, and (b) to outline a set of “principles” from which such a systematic choral diction method can and should be developed. The rationale and set of principles have been assembled from and supported by research in the areas of speech, linguistics, psycholinguistics, hearing, singing, acoustics, and psychoacoustics. (Author)

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