Choral Recitation

Male and/or Female

Small (617)  Large (618)

Please refer to the Drama/Persuasive General Guidelines before preparing for Choral Recitation.

CHORAL RECITATION: Sometimes called "unison reading," or "choral reading".  Unlike Readers Theatre (which is meant to be read), Choral Speaking requires a group of students to orally interpret and recite from memory.  A successful voice choir must not be "a lot of people speaking at once," but a group of speakers who are as controlled, unified and harmonized as a choir of singers.


REFRAIN is one of the most common forms of choral speaking.  One person reads the narrative portion of the text while the rest of the class joins in the refrain.

UNISON calls for the whole group to read the material together.  Additional sound effects might be incorporated.

ANTIPHON calls for the choir to be divided into two or more groups, with each group being responsible for a certain part of the selection.

SOLO LINES is a type of choral reading where individuals read specific lines in appropriate places throughout the group activity.

LINE AROUND or CHILD-A-LINE is more solo work where each line is taken by a different person in the group.

General Guidelines:

The choral group chooses a poem, scripture passage, rhyme or story to recite by memory, using all the skills of a good dramatic presentation.

  1. The selection may be: (a) Biblical, (b) patriotic, (c) of high moral content, (d) of Christian heritage.
  2. No singing is allowed.
  3. Costumes and props are allowed which may lend to the storyline.
  4. Two categories will be judged separately.  Small allows 4-12 contestants and Large allows 13-32 contestants. 
  5. Time limit is four (4) minutes minimum, six (6) minutes maximum.  If competition piece exceeds the 6-minute time limit, the entry will receive a .5-point deduction for any portion of thirty (30) seconds increments per judge.  (For example, a piece timed at 6:12 would receive a half-point deduction from the total score per judge.  A piece of 6:42 would receive a deduction of a full point from the total score per judge.)

For judging criteria, see JF89.

Submission Requirement for Choral Recitation:

  1. Three (3) copies of the selection must be brought to Convention. Each copy is to be in a clear plastic folder with the school name, school address, and telephone number visible on the front of each copy.

  2. Photo: Submit a color photo (snapshot or Polaroid) of the entire choir simulating the performance wearing the costumes or apparel they will wear at the convention. VERY IMPORTANT! Write the complete school name, and school address on back of photo.

  3. Judge's Forms: Submit three (3) copies, properly completed. 

  4. Preparation Form (CF9) is required.


Remember when presenting your program:

  1. Select verse material with care.  It should reflect either Christian heritage, Biblical truth, patriotic theme or a moral principle as well as interest and preference.  Keep in mind the students' vocabulary level.  Poetry is especially suitable for choral speaking, particularly poetry that contains some repetition (e.g. ballads, narrative poetry, adventure poetry).
  2. Give advance thought to interpretation.  Discuss meaning and the various ways of reading the material to bring out the meaning with the choir.
  3. During rehearsal, consider suggestions for improving phrasing and diction.
  4. As the choir becomes more experienced, consider suggestions as to which lines may be most effectively delivered by the whole group, by part of the group, or by individuals.
  5. The amount of time spent preparing a poem or other selection will vary, but it is more important to keep the enthusiasm alive.
  6. Select a poem, rhyme or story that will come alive when read aloud - words with fascinating sounds, contrast of some sort that can be interpreted, mood that can be enhanced through oral interpretation, or dialogue that bears the stamp of personality. 
  7. Almost an infinite number of possibilities exist for choral recitation.  Try to select the most appropriate voice elements to reinforce the meaning of the selection.  Contrast is the key.  Use one or two simple classifications for the voices - high and low, for instance, as well as strong and soft.  Here are just a few of the possible strategies:  1) Alternate slow and fast lines, stanzas, or paragraphs, 2) Alternate loud and soft lines, 3)  Alternate low and high voices, 4)  Emphasize key words and phrases by reading them in a louder or softer voice, 5)  Pause for a specified number of silent "beats" before you join in and continue reading, 6) Clap or make a certain sound at the end of certain lines, stanzas, or paragraphs.

Unity of Articulation and Syllabification:  The most important of all requirements for a competitive voice choir is unity.  A unity of articulation and syllabification, appearance, as well as a unity of pitch and inflection are necessary.  All speakers must attach, move through, and finish their syllables at precisely the same moment.  If the body of a choral speech were cut short at any point during a performance, each individual voice should be at precisely the same place in the syllable as every other voice.

Unity of Pitch and Inflection:  In spite of differing individual voice qualities, a voice choir must blend harmoniously to a common unified tone.  This unified tone must move as a whole through changes in rhythm/tempo and changes in emotional intensity so that the inflection-line linking them is also single and unified.

The words of a verse give a poem form.  A successful voice choir director must learn to work with, shape, and combine a number of choral speaking elements in order to give the poem life.  These elements are defined below:

Voice Quality:  The ability to combine successfully the light, medium, and dark voices in the choir (using these groups for their natural basic sounds and/or combining them for special effects).  The ability to communicate through voice, reactions to thought, or emotions.

Number of Voices:  The ability to add or subtract whole sections, banks, smaller groups, or solo speakers to increase or diminish the power or richness of the sound to better express the meaning.

Bodily Movement:  Ability to use gesture, choreography, or other movement to enhance communication and better express meaning.

Pitch:  Pitch refers to the variations of the voice on the musical scale and is generally referred to as inflection.  Children generally have little problem with pitch because they use it naturally and freely.

Power:  Ability to use volume, force, or loudness as emphasis in appropriate places to better express feeling and meaning.  A power build should be related to the elements of a sentence and/or growing emotion.

Phrasing and Rhythm:  Ability to use phrasing and rhythm as reinforcements for each other.  Each must blend together to better express the meaning of the verse.

Tempo:  Tempo refers to the rate of speed at which a reading progresses.  The ability to balance the rhythm of a piece and tempo of performance.  Tempo should relate to the central "beat" for the poem. (Too fast?  Too slow?)

Entrance:  The way your group enters the performance area and gets into position is very important to the quality of your performance.  Entrances should be accomplished in a quiet, systematic way.  Rehearsal is essential.  Your entrance will set the tone for a listening audience!

Placing of Speakers on Risers:  Special attention to placing of speakers on risers (should you request them) or on the platform is especially important for a visually interesting performance.  Some suggestions:

  1. Position BOYS on one side, GIRLS on the other, OR place BOYS in top half section, GIRLS on bottom half.  You might ask BOYS to wear all of one color (or special costumes which fit the story), and ask GIRLS to wear another color (or special costume).
  2. SOLO SPEAKER lines are often effective coming as a surprise from all sections of the group, so these speakers may be scattered amongst the group.
  3. QUARTETS, however, should be positioned together in the front row, if possible.  These people must speak as a small group in unison, so should be positioned together where they can work together and the audience can easily see and hear them.  Quartets might also be positioned off to the side, depending on the script.
  4. CHARACTER SPEAKERS (speaking the lines of characters in the story) may also be positioned together in the front row.  They might also be positioned off to the side, placed standing on a low separate platform nearby, or seated on tall stools.  Each might wear a small costume piece (or carry a prop) which suggests which character they are.