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Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star sign sung in Makaton
Music video for French-language song La petite Clémence featuring French-Sign-Language singing

Sign singing or Karaoke signing is singing using sign language. Typically a song is played, and the performer expressively performs a sign language version of the lyrics. Whereas vocal singing uses pitch and tone to convey expressions, sign singing relies on the performer's hands, body, and facial expressions.[1]

Choirs can perform sign singing and have gathered popularity in recent years as accessibility for the Deaf community and interest in signing languages have risen. Competitions in which sign choirs can compete include the National Signing Choir Competition in the UK.[1]

Well-known sign singers include the Japanese Tomoko Nakayama, a follower of Nichiren Buddhism, and the bawdy Australian duo Dislabelled.[citation needed] In London in 2003, a series of "Deaf Idol" events were held where deaf participants competed in karaoke singing, dance etc., in a similar format to the TV show Pop Idol. Sign language can be used to express extremely nuanced feeling, and so sign singing is an important creative input for the deaf.

Sign singing is featured in the movie Napoleon Dynamite during a scene when two members of the "happy hands club" perform a song titled "The Rose" written by Bette Midler, entirely in sign. [2] The signing club depicted in the film was largely inspired by a sign singing club that was previously established at Preston High School (Idaho), where the movie was filmed.[3] The film brought wider attention to the club, originally called the "Good hands club," which was founded by educator Dan Robertson, who conceived the idea for the group while studying ASL at Brigham Young University. In 2013 the troupe performed on stages at Disneyland, in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and flew to Orlando for the convention of a large corporation.[3]

A sign language interpretation by the late Kimberly Rae Schaefer during Pearl Jam's 2000 tour for "Given to Fly" garnered public attention for the passionate and emotional signing.[4]

The national anthem was sung and signed in British Sign Language at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics by The Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children.[5]

The 2015 Broadway musical theater production of Spring Awakening integrated American sign language within the choreography of dance moves, while also utilizing a mixture of hearing and deaf performers.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b "National Signing Choir Competition UK". National Signing Choir Competition UK. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  2. ^ FlatheadedGorilla (2011-08-02), Napoleon Dynamite - Happy Hands Club [HD], archived from the original on 2021-12-12, retrieved 2018-09-09
  3. ^ a b "Hands & Voices :: Articles". Retrieved 2018-09-09.
  4. ^ "Pearl Jam - Remembering Kimberly Rae Schaefer". Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  5. ^ "The Kaos Signing Choir - Imagining the Future of Medicine". Retrieved 2018-09-09.
  6. ^ "Songs meet sign language in this Broadway musical". New York Post. 2015-09-28. Retrieved 2018-09-09.