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The Ancient Greek Chorus and Elements of Choral Speaking

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Sally Barlow

on 14 October 2013

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Transcript of The Ancient Greek Chorus and Elements of Choral Speaking

The Ancient Greek Chorus and Elements of Choral Speaking
The Chorus - Details
An integrated unit, works primarily as an ensemble, but members can speak in isolation for dramatic effect.
Believed to originally be a group of fifty, reduced to twelve, then extended to fifteen for much of the Greek dramatic tradition.
At fifteen members, the Chorus clearly is a great focus within Ancient Greek theatre.

The Chorus- Functions
To retain the atmosphere of ritual in the dramatic event – a chorus was present at all Greek ceremonial and religious occasions.
To set a lyrical mood or tone to the drama, reinforcing the acting with vocal performance and choreography (the rhythms of the choral work were often as important as the content).
To unify the drama – the Chorus was constantly in sight, often between the audience and actors, providing a visual thread to the performance.
The Chorus - Review
A Chorus is always a chief component of Greek plays.
The Chorus serves to inform the audience about the action and make comments about the play’s action.
Therefore, the Chorus is a continuous source of mediation between the audience and the actors.

Task: Explain the
function of a
Greek Chorus?
The Chorus – Performance Choices
Should the Chorus –
be regarded as a collective character with a role in the drama?
be an impersonal presence like a choir or corps de ballet?

In some scripts, the Chorus plays a collective character, i.e. in Oedipus Rex, the Chorus represents the people of Thebes, in Agamemnon, the Chorus represents the city of elders.
However, in some plays, the function of the Chorus is not personified.

The Chorus - Ensemble
Actors performing within the Chorus must work in unison as a group.
Choral gestures and movements completed in unison are powerful.
Actors performing within the Chorus must also pay close attention to the rhythm of the text and utilise its natural cadences.

The Chorus – Artistic Choices
As an ensemble, Chorus members must make decisions regarding the delivery of the choral text.
Some guidelines:
Work of the Chorus should be consistent with the style of the drama as a whole.
Movement and gesture should be integrated, but not with literal text connections, i.e. Miming action of text.
Movement can be in the form of unified walking – dance.
Vocal work can be in the form of speaking, chanting and/or singing.

Choral Speaking - Elements
movement or sound in a pattern, usually in a recurring pulse or beat
Lines in verse or poetry that agree with each other in terminal (main) sound, i.e. fine-mind-womankind
Rate of movement, i.e. Slow, fast = adagio, allegro
Degree of sound intensity or audibility
Gradual increase of volume
Gradual decrease of volume

Choral Speaking – Techniques
A verse or selection to song or chanted in response; in choral speaking this often refers to the performance tradition of dividing both the choral group and text into several pieces, each group becoming responsible for a selection of the text.
Solo Lines
Lines (or even 2-3 successive words) that are delivered by individual choral members to enhance the choral performance.
Line Around
A technique where each line of the text is delivered by a different member of the choral group

Choral Speaking in the Ancient Greek Tradition
Reflection Questions:
Although a modern example, is this an accurate representation of the Chorus in the Ancient Greek tradition? Yes/No, Why/Why not?
What elements and techniques of choral speaking (previous slides) are evident in this performance?
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