The Ending is just the Beginning

My thanks to The Living End for the headline above. I adore their latest cd, it keeps me bopping in the car (when I’m not listening to podcasts from the BBC World Service).

So, The Voice Class 2012 Term 1 has concluded.  This was quite a stunningly eclectic class, with students from very different walks of life, and different directions for their vocal needs.  Live theatre, voice overs, seminar presentation and choral singing – our common ground the unique and wonderful voice of each individual.

Preparation are now in hand for Term 2, which begins on April 16th.  As I explained to the students last night, we will return to basic principles, the foundational work for developing and caring for our voices.  Every time I do this, I learn something new about my voice, and my practice as a creative artist. Fab!

We will also take the time to explore our voices in the body of language. Phonemes, vowels, consonants, how they construct themselves into words, how we shape our unique voices into those words, and how to stay true to ourselves as our voices transform our thoughts into those sounds with clarity and free expression.

I can’t wait.  More details on the website, or just fill in the form here to express your interest, and get more information.

It’s hard work, so it had better be fun

The Voice Class has just passed the half-way mark.  We’ve established the basic principles of good posture, self-awareness as against self-consciousness, the physics of sound and the relationship between breath and voice.  We’ve learned the mini-vocal warmup, and begun the process of expanding it into the vocal maintenance program.

A week ago, I introduced the students to my full vocal warmup, the one that was originally developed in Scotland by the members of the Golden Age Theatre ensemble. And we really were an ensemble, sharing ideas, energies, skills, experience to make theatre together.  The warm up began as a purely physical warmup, but I have developed it over the years to be a total, all-in-one program that serves as training as well as a device to bring into focus the body, voice, brain, emotions, imagination and anything else that contributes to the YOU-ness of you.

We fudged some of the more challenging physical aspects of the warmup last week, but last night it was the full whammy. Hard work, but also fun. The fun part kicks in when you actually know what you are doing – as with anything – and you can begin to play with the different elements while respecting the integrity of the structure.

So today, I’m just a little bit sore. But my heart is full.

You’re the Voice! Try and Understand That

Yes, I’m quoting John Farnham. Actually, I’m quoting Chris Thompson, Andy Quanta, Keith Reid and Maggie Ryder   – the people who wrote the lyrics.

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear
Oh-o-o-o, whoa-o-o-o!
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear
Oh-o-o-o, whoa-o-o-o!
(repeat until end of song) (courtesy of LyricsFreak)

I was reminded of this, yet again, by a recent discussion on VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainers of America) about the way some people can learn an accent (in the USA, this is referred to as dialect), for a role in a play, do it perfectly in rehearsal, but then slip up in performance.

Changing the way we speak is a huge undertaking. It may seem, to the uninitiated, like a superficial action, reshaping a few vowel sounds here and there, jiggling the intonation pattern of phrases, but those of us who deal with these things understand that it is never that simple.

Whenever we speak, or give voice to language, we express something of our very own selves. Many complex combinations of muscles are required to perform the most amazing dance within our bodies to allow our sound to be revealed to the listeners. We have spent a lifetime perfecting the way we do it. Trying to learn new ways of doing that incredible inner dance requires months of dedication – not just on the part of the voice coach, but on the part of the voicer.  It requires agility of mind and body, listening accurately, staying alert and focussed, and forgiving every perceived error so that we can start again, and again and again.

When non-performers (also known as “regular people” :-)) try to modify their accents, they very quickly learn that they are modifying part of their culture, their social behaviour and their very sense of who and what they are.  Actors often make the mistake of thinking its just a matter of learning new muscle memory. BIG MISTAKE.  If you learn an accent purely technically, you are not learning how to inhabit it, how to be someone who speaks that way naturally. As well as the physical technique, you also need to understand WHY the character speaks that way, what cultural mores and attitudes go along with it, as well as all the psychological and emotional life you explore as part of the rehearsal process.  When you understand, at this deep level, what you have in common with the character, and where you are different, you can begin to give yourself permission to Choose to be the same in every way, just in the moment of performing.  That means you will feel different to your usual way of being. It doesn’t have to be carried off stage with you. Let it go. Allow the next moment to be just as real, and that applies both on stage and off.

And if that were easy, we’d all be doing it!  So may I respectfully suggest that we honour our voices, as part of honouring ourselves, and make them clear in every way.  We don’t have to shout to be truthful, but we do have to be honest with ourselves, first and foremost.

What Form Below? – I hear you ask!

My humble apologies, to anyone who wanted to use the form I mentioned in my last post to express an interest in joining the Voice Class next week.  Click on this and you will see the form!

Ah, the joys of modern communication, eh?

Thank goodness we still have voices, for that vital face to face communication, and thank goodness we can come together from time to time to discover new ways of doing it even better.

In case you’re wondering how we do that in The Voice Class, well, amongst other things we move around and we make funny sounds, and in the process we learn how to listen to ourselves, from the inside, how to hear what our bodies are actually doing, and how they affect the way we sound. We hear our voices thrumming away inside ourselves, we feel the vibrations as they make their way out into the world, and we hear AND feel the vibrations others are making and we notice how that affects what we hear, and how we hear it.

All of this adds up to a more efficient voicing instrument, a more effective communication and creative expression, and a greater understanding of how the whole thing works – and why it is so important to know that!  Especially when we are performing, and even MORE especially when we are speaking words that someone else provided for us to speak.  And EVEN MORE especially when that someone is Mr W. Shakespeare.

Don’t you just love it? I know I do…

Here’s the form.  Go on, click – you know you want to.


Voice Alive!

I recently committed myself to take part in a three week intensive, full time clown training course with the fabulous Ira Seidenstein.  Terrified that I might totally exhaust myself, and run out of beans to do anything for the rest of the year, in fact I came out at the end quite invigorated and fired up, ready to take on anything 2012 can throw at me.

We worked with Shakespeare’s text, some of it placed in the mouths of actual clowns, some that you might never suspect of being clowns ‘as characters’, but then what is a character?  It’s a person. And if you are the person playing that character, and you happen to be a clown, then way-hey to go!

For example, in this clip, Anne Chaponnay, a French improv performer who came out from Paris to do the workshop plays Katherine, Princess of France, while I am her chambermaid, Alice, in a scene from Henry V.

I’m now very excited about the upcoming Voice Class, and the prospect of playing with some actors, singers, teachers, Mums, Dads, people of the world with a view to growing our voices, our self expression and our capacity for speaking great language ourselves.

Still a few places left. Get in touch, either by Facebook (Being in Voice), or Twitter (@flloydpk) or use the form below.