All posts by Rebecca

Tap Class

When I was at drama school we had dance classes every day.  This was not a pleasurable experience for me.  My headteacher report at the end of the first term said that I acted from the head up and I needed to connect with my body.  I’m sad to say that I didn’t really understand how to do that until I was much older, probably my 30’s.  However in the meantime, I was 21 and I had dance class, every day, in leotards and leggings, in front of full length mirrors,  surrounded by people who were much thinner than I was and could most of whom were pretty good dancers.

We studied period movement, (dances from olden times with ridiculous names, like the cavort, well not the cavort but you get the gist), ballet, jazz, tap and body conditioning.  (The girl who taught jazz to us now runs the Zumba class where I run my choir,  she still looks like she’s in her twenties.  She was teaching me 20 years ago, so jazz dance/Zumba must be good for you.)

Dance class were a form of torture to me.  I was not good at remembering the moves,  I was not good at weight transference and whenever I turned I completely lost where I was.

After drama school I attended a couple of classes at Pineapple Dance Studios in London.  Beginners classes.    I was still not good at remembering the moves,  I was still not good at weight transference and whenever I turned I completely lost where I was.  But I didn’t have to go so I stopped going.

Then I tried again, a few years later, I went to a musical theatre dance class at the Dance Xchange in Birmingham.  Each wee we learned a dance from a show, worked on it a bit and then ran it.  I was still not good at remembering the moves,  I was still not good at weight transference however I worked out that if I didn’t turn then I got a bit less lost.  I take progress where I can find it. Those classes were fun.  Embarrassing but fun.

I have gone to some Zumba classes and they were ok.  I wasn’t so worried about that as it was too crowded to be seen and lots of people were rubbish too.  Also it was an exercise class not a dance class.

Then a few friends set up a tap class.  I said I would like to go.  I avoided it for the first 2 weeks.  Then I decided I had left it too late and I wouldn’t ever catch up so I had better not go.  I had all sorts of excuses not to go.  One of the group, Anne, who attends my choir, said that how I am scared of the dance class is like how she was scared at my choir when she started attending.  It’s hard to believe anyone is that scared of coming to my choir as I was of that class but I suppose it’s possible.

Last week I mentioned the class to my friend Natalie who seemed keen to go.  The class day came, Monday.  I was tired.  I’d had 4 hours sleep.  It wasn’t a good idea to go to a dance class.  I messaged Natalie to say I was too tired.  She said that was fine with her and not to worry. Then I saw that she had texted me before then to ask about going.  So I relented.

We were nearly late but the parking was great and then suddenly, there I was, in a room full of people who see me as their choir leader, utterly freaked out and there were those mirrors again.  Full length in all of their glory.  And there I was in all my glory. Wearing borrowed tap shoes that hurt my feet.

I began at the far side of the room, far too far from the door.  I was freaking out.  I was doing the steps but I was freaking out.  Every part of my brain was screaming “why are you here?  Why do you torture yourself like this?”  I felt a need for some water and went to my water bottle.  And stayed by it, near to the door.  Natalie said that she could see me literally edging towards the door.  No one was sure if I would stay or go.  Not even me.  I was embodying the song by The Clash.

I spent the first 1/2 hour feeling desperately uncomfortable.  I really regretted going.  It was certainly not making me as happy as it would have made me to go to a cafe and have cake and a mocha.  Then my friend Lucy said to watch the teacher’s feet.  So I did.  I ignored my reflection and looked at her feet.

It was then that I realised I could sort of do it.  The teacher was so good at breaking it down and keeping it simple.  My friends were happy to ask her to repeat anything they were confused about, which was pretty similar to the things that I confused about.  (They do that at choir too, they like to tell a teacher when they are lost).

At the end of that class I had got most of the steps right and I realised it wasn’t that I am un-teachable at dance, it was that the classes I had been in weren’t right for me.  And I wasn’t ready to be un-self conscious enough to learn.

At the end the teacher asked me what I do on a Tuesday night.  She runs a burlesque class and said that although I hid it she can see I carry myself in a theatrical manner and I would probably do well in her burlesque class.

I still think that a shy singer can hide much more easily than a shy dancer but I’ll stick with this and see where it takes me.  Maybe one day I will try the burlesque.

British Voice Association

It has been a busy few months and not least because I joined the British Voice Association’s Education Working Party.

I want to shout about this event.

After training lots of training dancers at Jordon’s School of Dance, many professional dancers who were starting their journey with singing and, most of all, preparing  James Barton for his role in An American in Paris  and seeing the conflict between my approach to breathing and what he had to do in his role I have been looking for how we can best support our dancers who sing.  This day is the result of that and I can’t wait for the tickets to go on sale for the event on Monday.

Our last event, on Sunday just gone, sold out.  I’m so proud to be involved with organising events for the organisation I credit with the best learning I did when I was starting out.   I continue to learn loads at all events and  it’s an honour to be involved in putting the events. on.

 

Studying, Writing and Plotting and (a bit), more available.

New Availability

Now that my youngest child is at school I am now available to teaching during the day most days, and also on certain evenings.

Studying, Writing

I signed up to attend a course in Advanced Anatomy for the Voice Professional. I figured if I was going to attend then I should really do the Certified Pathway and do some written assignments. Get a qualification.

Then I attended the course, felt my mind blown quite a few times, and then sat down to do the assignments. I had a lot of fun writing an article explaining how the voice works and was extremely lucky that my clever friend drew some ace pictures for me to use. I’m really looking forward to sharing it on here when I have finished the final draft and submitted it.

For my other assignment I can’t decide whether to study methods for smoothing out passaggios or the ways that dancers need to utilise their bodies in a different way to other singers.

Either way I’m really looking forward to doing the reading (when I get the time), and learning new things. Loving the learning, it’s great.

Plotting

I have been part of the Educational Working Party for the British Voice Association for quite a few months now and the first event that we started plotting so many month ago is now open for booking. I’m so proud to be able to tell my students about this event. It is about connecting with your whole body, and how difficulties elsewhere in the body can negatively impact voice use.

Here is a information on how to book in for the event.

BVA – Chain Reactions Day

Chain Reactions 21-01-2018  poster

And I can’t give proper details of the day that I’m plotting for March (or possibly May). We have some fantastic people signed up to present a day about something very close to my heart (and my work).

My Mind Is Open and My Mind Is (Slightly) Blown.

Firstly, forgive me for it has been a very long time since my last post.  I could write about what I have been doing but I just need to say about what I did at the weekend.

I hosted some workshops. The page about the Workshops.

It all started because I went to these workshops last November and I found it really interesting.  The teacher lives in New York but visits London a couple of times a year.  I asked my students, and anyone else, if they were interested in attending and, as they were, I booked it and set it all up.

The first time I did the workshop I understood, (by which I mean I didn’t feel utterly baffled by), parts of it.  There were also bits I really didn’t “get” and bits that felt interesting.  It felt like something that I couldn’t find elsewhere in the UK and so I felt it was something to bring here.  My instincts were right.

Last weekend I participated in the beginners workshop twice and the intermediate one once.  I also had a one to one lesson with Jonathan for an hour.  Since that time I feel completely different.  I feel a bit like I’ve been born again and I don’t say that casually.  I am a born again singer with a new appreciation of my voice.   I didn’t feel this way the first time I did Jonanthon’s work but this time I did.  I know that one person in the group said that she has realised her voice belongs to her, after many, many years of feeling it didn’t.  I saw 2 students who are usually quite contained let out enormous sounds.  I saw transformations in some singers.  Others maybe had food for thought and it wasn’t the right work for others.

I am still very interested in the physiological/anatomical side of voice.  I still have a burning desire to know everything, (with the understanding that only ignorant fools think they know everything).  But I see that there is also another way.  I want to understand both ways.

This approach is about feeling sympathetic vibrations in your body, feeling the voice to come from a different place in your body, unlocking blocks, both physical and mental, becoming friends with your voice.  The work starts in the body and the imagination. I know that this isn’t the official definition of the work but essentially it is about making friends with your voice and appreciating it.  I am aware that it’s not for all people although it is familiar to me in terms of the work I did on voice in my training as an actor.  I have never been taught this way as a singer or a training singing teacher.

My recollection of the work of Stanislavsky is that he started his training as an actor by exploring emotions and how they effect the body.  Using the emotions as the starting point.  Then he changed his approach and looked at what the body does and how the emotions respond.  This felt that it was based on the latter approach.  It felt so real.  I saw people let Jon control their arms and unlock emotions that none of us knew were there.  From the physical to the emotional and the voice was simply free.

The current approach that I see in voice work starts with impressions of sounds and then the singer becomes familiar with the physical response and replicates it.  In this workshop I saw people make truly primal sounds.  Not sounds that are impressions of primal sounds but real, primal sounds.  And there was nothing indulgent or showy.  There were genuine human reactions to the work that they were doing.

I also learned things about myself as a person but that’s not for here.  So far I have found a free voice that has an extra couple of notes at the bottom and went straight through with no break at all.

I wish I could study this further, alongside the physiological approach.  I am sure that I will and when I do I’ll do my best to remember to blog about it and share it on here.

For now I have voice books to read, acting books to read, anatomy books to read, and I guess there’s a small matter of preparing to conduct 500 singers at the Symphony Hall this Sunday.

Shows and how we all have different tastes

Threepenny Opera Trailer

I really wanted to go to London to see the National Theatre’s production of the Threepenny Opera as I have never seen the show and have seen so many brilliant productions at the National.  When I saw that they were filming it and it was going to be shown that the local cinema I was so chuffed and I wasn’t disappointed.  It was brilliant.  My eldest son loved The Light Princess so I knew that Rosalie Craig is a cracking singer but watching her skill and control is like a masterclass in the Threepenny Opera (and of course because it’s filmed you can see exactly what’s going on).

I loved the directorial choices, the character interpretation, the feminist slant.  I really enjoyed seeing some actors who were clearly not natural singers showing how a song should be delivered, regardless of the technical aspects of their voices.

I admit to not knowing the songs properly and have made various student sing Surabaya Johnny.  What a song!

I freely admit that I like shows that are darker and unnerving.  Since Peter Pan when I was very young nothing has moved me as much as  The Scottosboro Boys.  I like a show with a sense of humour but I like to learn and cry and go on a journey.

The only thing I didn’t like was the way the show was filmed.  I wish that they didn’t keep zooming in.  In a live show you choose where to look and the way this was filmed felt very controlling.  But I’m still so very grateful that it was filmed at all.

I’m now really looking forward to seeing Sideshow at the Southwark Playhouse, Murder Ballads at the Arts Theatre and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at Birmingham’s Old Joint Stock Theatre.

New Times Available for Lessons

(November 2016-  I’ve changed the post as my available times has changed.)

My youngest child has started at pre-school and I have newly available times for teaching.

I now teach private singing lessons on Tuesday afternoons (although this is mostly fully booked most weeks already), Wednesday and Friday 9 – 3.30  and all day on Saturdays.

Let me know if you want to book in for a lesson in any of these new times.

(There are also the choirs on Monday night, Tuesday and Friday mornings.

A Terrifying Challenge

I took the chance to challenge myself in the exams as well.  A few months ago I began to lesson swap with the best pianist I know, me teaching him vocal technique and he was teaching me piano.  We had about 3 lessons and he decided to bite the bullet and do a grade. Of course a classical exam would have been pretty easy for him as he’s done all of the Aural and theory many times before.  But he’s like me and likes a challenge.

So he signed up to do the musical theatre exam, and of course didn’t start with a beginners Grade, no he wanted to do Grade 3.  Everything was going fine until my Dad died and I lost the will to practice.  I got really worried as I wasn’t managing to accompany him properly at all as I was in full on grief mode and couldn’t really  take instruction well at all.

When the date for the funeral was finally set it was the day before the exams.  It was clear that I wasn’t ready and we had no idea what sort of state I would be in on the exam day.   I was so worried that my poor playing would let him down.  ‘t asked if the exam could be changed but the lovely exam centre organiser (I’m sure there’s a proper name but I’m not sure what it is), didn’t come back to us with a different time until it was too late.

So psyched myself up for accompanying him for his exam.

As I spent the morning reassuring the candidates for their exams I was really nervous about the accompanying.  I was trying to practice in the little gaps I had between warming them up but really I had no time to prepare myself.  And as my friend was accompanying all of the other singers for their exam before he sat his own he had no time to prepare himself either.

Then we got into the exam room and I realised that, of course, I would be playing a grand piano.  My friend said that he made a deliberate choir not to tell me as he didn’t want me to freak out.  I think that was a good choice.  It felt so loud to play but apparently it’s not that loud.  It felt completely alien.  I always say that as a singer your instrument is in your body so it’s hard to predict it in the way that you can predict a clarinet or some other instrument. I never considered playing a completely alien instrument, in a pressured situation.  It’s scary stuff!

Anyway I made a few glaring mistakes and I don’t plan to start accompanying all of my students yet  but I’m proud to say that we, sorry he, passed, with a good solid merit.  I’m so proud of us both.

Summer 2016

It’s been so long since my last confession, sorry blog, that I thought that I had better just do a brief update.

I entered 15 students  for LCM Musical Theatre Grades and they all did brilliantly.  For almost all of them it was their first singing exam and they all exceeded expectations.  Some find singing really easy and others are almost total beginners so whilst results were varied they all made me so proud.  The results were up to 95% and over a third got in the 90%’s.

The dancers I teach at Jordan School of Dance represented England at the Dance World Cup and England won.  I am so proud to be working with them.  A couple of the singers  I work with, (including Sophie who I have worked with since she was 12), have got into BOA a Performing Arts School in Birmingham.  Not to mention a working with a lovely dancer who was auditioning for the London production of An American In Paris.  He got a part and the show opens in March 2017.

Cantare Choir had it’s best ever concert, accompanied by a full band.  You can see a couple of the songs below.

and here

and lastly here

And on another note I have had a wonderful time doing a clear out. I was inspired by the crazy Maria Kondo and since I started clearing out stuff it’s become a new exciting compulsion.  My head feels a little clearer too.  It’s great.