Music Theatre and Popular Singing: Guidelines

 

Music Theatre & Popular Singing Exam Guidelines for Teachers - by Kaeylea b. VanKeith (RIAM Examiner and Singing Teacher)

The following are guidelines for Presentation and General Information by Grade from Grade III to Senior Certificate. 

For Music Theatre and Popular Singing, part of the Presentation score is based on dressing in a costume appropriate for the character of one of the Musical Theatre songs. Props may be used, but are not required. Movement or gesture is encouraged, where appropriate to the character or meaning of the song. First and foremost, the character should be expressed through the voice.

It is advisable that students do one or more of the earlier grades prior to submitting for Grade 3 Music Theatre & Popular Singing.

 

  • Grade 3:
    • For Musical Theatre songs, introduce:
      • Title of the song
      • Composer & lyricist
      • Name of the musical or movie that the song is from
      • Name of your character
      • Why she/he is singing the song (context).
        • For example: “My first song is ‘Part of Your World’ from The Little Mermaid, with lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. My character Ariel is a mermaid. In this song she sings about her wish to be human”

 

  • For Popular songs, introduce:
    • Title
    • Composer & lyricist
    • Artist who recorded the song
      • For example, “My next song is ‘The Rose’ by Amanda McBroom. This song was originally recorded by Bette Midler for the film The Rose”.

 

  • Grade 4:
    • For Musical Theatre songs, introduce:
      • Title of the song
      • Title of the musical or movie that the song is from
      • Composer & lyricist
      • Name of your character
      • Context of the song (where in the plot does it happen, why are they singing it / to whom)
      • Give a summary of the plot as it relates to your character.
      • Name two other songs from the musical

 

  • For Popular songs, introduce:
    • Title
    • Composer & lyricist
    • Name of artist who originally recorded the song
    • What year it was recorded

 

  • Grade 5:
    • For Musical Theatre songs, introduce:
      • Title of the song
      • Title of the musical or movie that the song is from
      • Composer & lyricist
      • Name other works by the composer & lyricist
        • For example: “I will be performing ‘Popular’ from the musical Wicked, with music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote the musicals Godspell and Pippin”
        • State what Year the musical premiered and Where (e.g.: Broadway, West End, Off-Broadway)
        • Name of your character & who originally performed the part
        • Context of the song (where in the plot does it happen, why are they singing it / to whom)
        • Give a summary of the plot as it relates to your character. Be aware of the other main characters.
        • Name two other songs from the musical
  • For Popular songs, introduce:
    • Title
    • Composer & lyricist
    • Name of artist who originally recorded the song
    • What year it was recorded
    • Name ONE example of:
      • Another artist who has recorded the song, OR
      • Another song written by the composer/lyricist

 

  • Grade 6:
    • For Musical Theatre songs: clearly introduce
      • Title of the song
      • Title of the musical or movie that the song is from
      • Composer & lyricist
      • Name other works by the composer & lyricist
        • For example: “My next song is _______ from the musical ________, with music & lyrics by _______, who also wrote the musicals  ________”
        • State what Year the musical premiered and Where (e.g.: Broadway, West End, Off-Broadway)
        • Name of your character & who originally performed the part
        • Context of the song (where in the plot does it happen, why are they singing it / to whom)
        • Give a summary of the plot as it relates to your character. Be aware of the other main characters and their storylines.
        • Name three other songs from the musical

 

  • For Popular songs, introduce  
    • Title
    • Composer & lyricist
    • Name of artist who originally recorded the song
    • What year it was recorded
    • Give TWO examples total (can be one of each):
      • Other artists who have recorded the song, OR
      • Other songs written by the composer/lyricist

 

  • Grade 7:
    • For Musical Theatre song, introduce:
      • Title of the song
      • Title of the musical or movie that the song is from
      • Composer & lyricist
      • Name other works by the composer & lyricist
        • For example: “My next song is _______ from the musical _______, with music & lyrics by ________, who also wrote the musicals ________”
        • Include the name of the Book writer/librettist
        • State what Year the musical premiered and Where (e.g.: Broadway, West End, Off-Broadway)
        • Name of your character & who originally performed the part
        • Context of the song (where in the plot does it happen, why are they singing it / to whom)
        • Give a summary of the plot as it relates to your character. Be aware of the other main characters and their storylines.
        • Name three other songs from the musical

 

  • For Popular songs, introduce:
    • Title
    • Composer & lyricist
    • Name of artist who originally recorded the song
    • What year it was recorded
    • Chart information, if applicable (Top Ten, #1, etc)
    • Give THREE examples total (can be combination of each):
      • Other artists who have recorded the song, OR
      • Other songs written by the composer/lyricist

 

  • Grade 8:
    • For Musical Theatre song, introduce:
      • Title of the song
      • Title of the musical or movie that the song is from
      • Composer & lyricist
      • Name other works by the composer & lyricist
        • For example: “My next song is _______ from the musical _______, with music & lyrics by ________, who also wrote the musicals ________”
        • Include the name of the Book writer / librettist
        • Include the name of the original Director, Choreographer or other significant member of the creative team
        • State what Year the musical premiered and Where (e.g.: Broadway, West End, Off-Broadway)
        • What is the musical based on? (source material – when was that written?)
        • Name of your character & who originally performed the part
        • Context of the song (where in the plot does it happen, why are they singing it / to whom)
        • Give a summary of the plot as it relates to your character. Be aware of the other main characters and their storylines.
        • Name three other songs from the musical
        • Include more detailed general information about the musical, either history/development of the show, it’s place in musical theatre history,  what historical significance it might have, or themes explored in the musical

 

  • For Popular songs, introduce:
    • Title
    • Composer & lyricist
    • Name of artist who originally recorded the song
    • What year it was recorded
    • Chart information, if applicable (Top Ten, #1, etc)
    • Give THREE examples total (can be combination of each):
      • Other artists who have recorded the song, OR
      • Other songs written by the composer/lyricist

 

  • Senior Certificate:
    • For Musical Theatre song, introduce:
      • Title of the song
      • Title of the musical or movie that the song is from
      • Composer & lyricist
      • Name other works by the composer & lyricist
        • For example: “My next song is _______ from the musical _______, with music & lyrics by ________, who also wrote the musicals ________”
        • Include the name of the Book writer / librettist
        • Include the name of the original Director or Choreographer or other significant member of the creative team
        • State what Year the musical premiered and Where (e.g.: Broadway, West End, Off-Broadway)
        • What is the musical based on? (source material – when was that written?)
        • Name of your character & who originally performed the part
        • Context of the song (where in the plot does it happen, why are they singing it / to whom)
        • Give a summary of the plot as it relates to your character. Be aware of the other main characters and their storylines.
        • Name three other songs from the musical
        • Include more detailed general information about the musical, either history/development of the show, it’s place in musical theatre history,  what historical significance it might have, or themes explored in the musical

 

  • For Popular songs, introduce:
    • Title
    • Composer & lyricist
    • Name of artist who originally recorded the song
    • What year it was recorded
    • Chart information, if applicable (Top Ten, #1, etc)
    • Name BOTH:
      • Two other artists who have recorded the song, AND
      • Two other songs written by the composer/lyricist

 

 

Other tips:

 

  • Think about and prepare your costume for one Musical Theatre song well in advance of the exam.
  • Introduce each song clearly. Take your time - pause if you need to think of what to say next, rather than using fillers like “em…uh…”. A bit of silence is okay!
  • Think about the dramatisation of each song & practice it (e.g.: don’t stare into the corner ceiling or at the floor)
  • Find opportunities to practice your performance in front of family members, fellow students, friends, etc.
  • WATCH a video of the entire show to understand your character, the story and the style.

  • Remember that there is a ‘hierarchy’ in a Music Theatre performance:
  1. The character should always be expressed through the voice first.
  2. Engagement in the eyes and facial expression help to convey the story.
  3. Physical gesture and movement can be added to enhance the performance, as appropriate.
  • Note: The performer should be sensitive to the size of the space. A ‘big’ or highly choreographed performance in a small room may not be suitable (and vice versa)

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