As I pondered the image of "putting lipstick on a child," I thought about all of the shows I have previewed for my work Children's Theater. So often the packaged shows come with highly processed pre-recorded or "canned" minus tracks. In my experience, the children's voices do not sound very good against full symphonic orchestra accompaniments or big brass band backgrounds, especially if they do not have a good sound engineer at the ready to pull off some equalizing magic. Their little voices just aren't big enough to stand their own ground against the overpowering interest in the minus tracks. In effect, it is like putting lipstick on a child. It is unnatural and fake. Instead of supporting the small voices, the heavily orchestrated backgrounds tend to overwhelm them.
Sure, there are some young children who can stand their ground against fully orchestrated accompaniment tracks. But that is not the norm, and their success is undoubtedly linked to the efforts of a good sound engineer. Most young children between the ages of 5 to 12 have small light voices and even less training. To expect them to sing with projection over a full orchestration, even in a group, is ridiculous. And it is just plain wrong to "train" them to belt louder and louder before their vocal apparatus and range are developed enough to managed the strain.
"Putting lipstick on a child." If you have ever witnessed the aftermath of a toddler applying lipstick to herself, you know the picture I have in my mind. What a mess! Not only on her face, but on her hands, her clothes, the counter, the furniture, the walls... Yeah, heavily orchestrated accompaniment tracks for young children's voices can be an unnatural mess like that!