Singing your Heart Out

Dillington House

Photo – Nicola Barranger

I think most people seem to take their voices for granted. Well it’s just something that’s there and functional isn’t it? A  bit like your nose. It works, you don’t need to treat it.

Just breath in and speak.

For years, when reporting and presenting for BBC World Service, looking after your voice wasn’t really talked about. It was considered a tad “arty” to talk about breath support and vocal exercises.

However, since I started my work as a voice professional and particularly as a singer, I’ve come to realise that looking after the old vocal cords is quite frankly…essential.

Yes I did use to think that all this “drink plenty of water, rest your voice between bouts of strenuous singing” malarkey was only for the professional singers and actors, that is until I started to lose my voice after 20 minutes of Zoom singing during lockdown (don’t ask, it was to do with our wonderful choir Earthly Voices needing to continue during Lock down).

It was then I realised why vocal support IS important and that it does truly, honestly work. This was after me singing for many years without any problems. What happened? Quite simply I was making more demands on my voice and my vocal folds were just, well complaining.

It’s also a truth that the folds needs as much TLC as muscles do. If you don’t do daily, boring, yes truly boring exercises, well they just won’t perform as well as you’d like. You want to run 20K? Well you won’t be able to do it without just a bit of training. You want to sing for 3-4 hours without a break? Don‘t expect the voice to hold out unless you’ve been doing your daily exercises.

However as we now know, community singing is having something of a golden moment right now.

You can’t move for choirs and I’m pretty sure it’s because people have released that singing (a bit like running) improves your mental well being, not to mention breathing. But unlike running, it is way WAY more sociable.

I have just come back from the most fabulous singing weekend in Somerset courtesy of Faith Watson and Singing for Larks. (What a great title) Held at the truly  magnificent Dillington House (pictured above) in Somerset in the south west of England, Faith teaches everything by ear.

Not only was it an music exercise but a memory workout as well. In a different world with a perfect NHS, this would surely be prescribed as a way to stave off memory loss at the same time as boosting dopamine levels.

Granted, we were blessed with perfect Autumn Sunshine, which meant that my Nikon D7100 camera was put to excellent use when not singing (yes photography, my other passion) and a delightful walk into neighbouring Ilminster.

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