Several times over the last few months, I’ve found myself helping singers overcome a tendency to chew their words as they enunciate them. So I’ve been thinking not only about techniques to help smooth the lines out, but also what underlies the habit in the first place. Over-articulation is an endearing feature of Nick Park animations, after all, but less helpful in choral contexts.
One origin of the habit, I suspect, is the way that the practices of the British cathedral tradition infiltrate so widely into the rest of our musical life. And while there is much that is wonderful about that, not all its habits necessarily translate directly into other contexts. The statement ‘You can never have too much consonant!’ is a valid statement when you’re working in an acoustic that is better for atmospheric effects than intelligibility of text, but in a small, dry room produces a result that is rather over-mannered.
But this is not the whole story, of course.