Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Vocal Play

‘The Human Voice knows no bounds’ I said in a particularly impassioned section of my research seminar on Monday at St Mary’s.

Many weeks ago now Michelle asked me to deliver a seminar to St Mary’s Staff about a National Voice project I am co-ordinating and delivering called ‘Vocal Points’ (more on that in a few weeks when I go to Newcastle for the final culmination event at The Sage Gateshead on the Banks of the Tyne). I was happy to do it, having delivered a lot of presentations about the project throughout the year and across many different mediums.

The seminar went well I think, allowing me to discuss a topic incredibly close to my heart – the power and potential of the Human Voice, not just for Performers but for ‘real’ people too (said quite deliberately). Looking at social etiquette and how it kills vocal spontaneity and freedom in early years. Why do we make noise so willingly as children? And more importantly, why do we stop? This all leads to the sort of problems - anatomical, psychological and emotional that I have to deal with every day. So what can we do to combat this? How can we get people to respect the notion of ‘play’?

Some interesting questions were asked and I fielded them as best as I could, but this will never be as important as experiencing the work first hand. When I went into the field of Voice it was never focussed on the Voice of the Performer, but about realising and releasing the human voice in Community settings, promoting self-advocacy, vocal ownership and confidence. And the Vocal Points project has been a big part of that.

I struggled as I attempted to find words to describe how important and enjoyable vocal expression can be……….I should have just bought them all tickets to see Naturally 7 last night………….

The show opened to 7 of the coolest men I have ever witnessed, walking onto a bare stage. One by one they turned into a 7 piece band/modern day orchestra. Beat-boxing, vocal scatting and instrument imitation filled the Royal Festival Hall for over 2 hours, until the normally stale upper class defined atmosphere felt more like a high school pop concert.

The sheer impressive success of these men was not only in their vocal trickery, obvious bond with each other or dynamic stage presence but their amazing technical ability for pitch, volume, breath control, power and flexibility – all of my students can learn a lot from these men!

As I sat and watched them move from piece to piece I became inspired by this spectacle. How amazing if more people like this acted as ambassadors for vocal tradition? If new vocal rituals could be started from performances such as this. Gone are the days that we readily use text and speech purely for pleasure or entertainment in mainstream contexts. But we could start something new, something age defying, gender defying, class defying and ‘talent’ defying (vocalising for pleasure, not product).

As the end came on my night in the Royal Festival Hall, and in the company of this amazing act I walked to the train station past posters of X Factor finalists, and Ex Britain’s Got Talent auditionees who were ‘lucky’ enough to get a break. If the Grand Canyon were merely a crack upon the surface, the gap between Naturally 7 and these other acts was a huge gaping hole.

Naturally 7 are performing at the London Jazz Festival and can be found on you tube www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5MkNOXSdkA

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