By Rev. Paul Wooley
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Whenever, either clergy or laity are either leading prayer or reading scripture during the liturgy, they are exercising an important ministry. As such, it is necessary to perform these tasks so that every word spoken can be as clearly understood as possible.
What follows in this article are some suggestions for the best possible results.
As mentioned in a previous article, many microphones have what is called a bass prominence, which means that the closer the microphone is to you the more the lower frequencies are pronounced and the higher sounds, responsible for consonants, are decreased.
You need to be speaking at least 5 inches (12 cm) from a microphone.
A handy method for checking this distance is to spread your hand as a quick measure. (view the illustration). Any closer and your voice becomes muddled. Also, don’t move around excessively, since changing your distance will change the volume.
Please Do Not Play With The Microphone
I have heard people walk up to a lectern, and have either turned off the microphone or pushed it away from themselves, as they said something like, “I don’t need a microphone”. However, the people trying to listen, do need the microphone!
Also, it is generally not required to thump on the microphone with your hand to establish if it is working. If you need assurance that everything is working, then get to church early enough to do a ‘sound check’ before anyone else arrives.
I have always printed readings, intercessions, and anything else to be read in very large print using either Arial or another sans-serif font, at 20-point size. This generally works out to be one reading per page. With this large print, the readers can easily see the text without difficulty, and without having to bend down to read smaller print. If you are tasked to read on a Sunday and would like to have your readings in larger print you can find all of the lectionary available at https://lectionary.anglican.ca, which you can use to create a custom print.
Pacing Your Speech
A common mistake is speaking too quickly. Sometimes this is a result of nervousness.
There are a few problems that arise from speaking fast. In churches with a lot of reverberation, quick speech becomes muddled. Additionally, we require time to process what is being said. Comprehension is greater when the rate of speech is slower.
One of the best techniques is to purposely put pauses whenever you encounter punctuation. This helps to break the text into logically understandable phrases.
Incorporate Inflection and Dynamics
Speaking at the same monotone pitch makes whatever is being said uninteresting. Listeners have a difficult time listening. What is being said in church, either scriptural or liturgical is important content. Read, with changes in tone, and changes in volume.
If you practice the readings, you will be more comfortable during the actual performance, and will have the opportunity to sort out any difficult-to-pronounce words.
[If you would like to hear an absolutely wonderful example of scripture being read with pacing, pausing, inflection and dynamics, listen to some of “The Gospel according to St John, read by Sir David Suchet”. It is available on YouTube HERE]
Rev. Paul Woolley is a retired priest in Huron. He has 55 years of experience working with audio equipment of every description for varied venues.