What does Business Body Language have to do with early choral music? Plenty!
by Barbara Chatzkel
There I was, sitting in an art gallery space, waiting for a concert of early choral music to begin. And, WHAM! – all these business body language messages were being sent and received.
“What do you mean? Business body language coming from a musical group that sings only music written before 1700?”
Yes, indeed. HELIOS [a modern renaissance] is a seven-member group that performed at the Downtown Chamber Series in Phoenix in January 2016. Their mission statement clearly describes what I experienced as an attendee: Seven voices illuminating early music with contemporary insight.
During the 90-minute performance, they sang 18 pieces of early music written between the 1500s and the early 1600s. The songs, performed with no instrumental accompaniment, were in English, Latin, Italian, Hebrew, and French.
Where did I observe business body language? Everywhere in each piece performed. It was a delight to view each performer as a separate contributor and enjoy their gifts, but the best body language examples were of HELIOS as a team.
The individual vocalists had great performance body language with relaxed torsos, arms resting at sides, leaning slightly forward, and with a solid stance. This is ideal relaxed and at ease body language. The audience was not distracted by individual movements that could break the fluidity of the team and could appreciate the music and the group body language flow.
HELIOS is a self-directed team, describing themselves as: “We are without a director, but not without direction. We are seven strong leaders collaborating to bring compositions from before 1700 to light.” All relied heavily on eye contact with other members to maintain the timing and pace of these complex pieces
One example of them functioning as a single unit was a unified inhale of breath just before the start of a piece or a new segment. It was both an anticipatory move as well as a practical one to fill their lungs with air. It was an act of excellent coordination.
Sometimes the group did not act in unison because of the different vocal parts, but each individual action was congruent and complementary to the other members, which provided the overall HELIOS brand image. The body language description is that they are mirroring each other. While they are not matching each breath, everyone’s body language is very similar to the other members of the group. Mirroring is a sure way to build rapport in a situation.
No one person stood out during a selection – even if one voice was singing, it was still part of the group activity – you had to look around to see whose lovely voice you were hearing at the moment. This was enhanced by the similar body language stances maintained by all members.
One selection was sung by the three women members of the group. They reminded me of the powerful “girl groups” of the 1960s and 1970s. The HELIOS singers were always looking at each other for cues with the result that they functioned as one unit. The girl groups were famous for lots of choreographed body language movement such as finger snapping, three steps forward, and ornate arm movements. The HELIOS performers were just as powerful with their simple and relaxed body language of arms at their sides, relaxed shoulders and feet about shoulder width apart. These three body language displays together create a message of confident, relaxed and interested individuals.
After several pieces I was able to detect body language cues that a piece was coming to an end. Almost imperceptibly they would stand up a bit straighter, have more frequent eye contact among the group, and adopt “anticipatory” body language – poised to sing the finale.
Smiles are my favorite business body language activity. They can be so expressive and it is easy to tell if the smile is genuine. It was delightful to watch them smile individually and then as a group when they were pleased with what they were singing
At the end of a piece that was particularly well done, each of the performers would have such a genuine smile that showed how much they enjoyed performing the piece as well as how much they appreciated the applause from the audience. Click here for a description of the difference between a real and a fake smile.
The evening was a double treat for me – I got to listen to outstanding performances of early music AND was able to observe business body language at work in a new situation.
Check out HELIOSphx.org to learn more about this newer, but going places, group. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Photographs by Southwestern Photography
Barbara Chatzkel’s ability to provide a vibrant and behavior-changing book extends across industry segments – everyone uses business body language. Her coaching and consulting expertise on business body language grew from conducting union negotiations, managing difficult personnel situations, managing at multiple levels, and extensive business coaching experience. Her new book, Business Body Language: Your Visual Business Card, will be available in print later in 2016. Visit her website today for further information.