It’s been a rather bitty week sorting stuff, meetings, proposals that I have to write up. At times I feel everything but a singer. It certainly was never mentioned at the Guildhall what you would need to juggle to maintain a career. Some of this is my own doing as I want to explore different avenues of the arts so singing has become only a part.
To be a singer the voice has to been nurtured and cared for. I was asked a month or so ago what I did to maintain my voice.To be honest at times I don’t find enough hours in the day so the singing practice sometimes gets left behind. Many of us know that if we don’t exercise for a week or more it`s so much more difficult to get back in the groove and the voice is no different. So I try to practice most days and keep the voice as agile as possible. I find if I don`t use my voice the upper register disappears quickly.
Simple warm ups and drinking lots of water is vital – at least to 8-10 glasses every day. Water thins your mucus and lubricates your vocal cords like oil lubricates a car engine. The voice needs sleep. Sounds like common sense – and it is. The more sleep you get, the more you will be awake and have more energy to perform. Take vocal “naps” I find that talking can be more tiring on my voice than singing so shut up when you can although that`s not something that comes naturally to me.
It really is a lifetime commitment to be a performing artist. When I think that I trained at the Guildhall for 6 years then a post grad at the National Opera Studio I realize with that dedication I could have been a doctor or a vet. Well – no I couldn’t have been. Let’s be realistic.
In opera, obviously the singers aren’t amplified and a huge fault of mine for many years was to over sing over the orchestra when there was no need to and so often the beauty in my voice would be lost. I recall a wonderful Scottish tenor called Bill McAlpine telling me “never sing louder than lovely laddy”. Just brilliant advice but then you need the confidence and maturity to do just that and trust your instrument. If you use a microphone there’s no need to sing to the back of the room. Let the microphone be loud for you. Using the microphone can prevent straining.
Also remember that our speaking voice should be an extension of our singing voice. You speak 95% of the time and sing 5%. A poor speaking voice often leads to vocal strain that will carry into your singing voice. I`m not sure how true it is but when I consulted at UWIC I was told that more teachers have vocal problems than singers.
Next week – exciting news! I’m announcing my festival on the stunning island of Sark.
This article was originally published in the Carmarthen Journal in Mark’s weekly column for the paper.