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Nemi's Viewpoint: The Singing Cities

Posted on 24 May 2014

On Friday 23rd May, there was a gathering of musical talent from various European countries at Sage Gateshead which can be referred to as ‘the singing cities’. I happened to come in when Katherine Zeserson (The director of Learning and Participation) was leading the group through some vocal exercises and warm ups.

The aim of these particular warm ups was to free the voice, while eliminating self consciousness in the individual, a trait which can suppress vocal capacity.

After the warm ups, Katherine Zeserson taught the group a song she had written titled ‘Peace will come’. The participants broke up into various groups befitting his/her own vocal range and practiced the pretty song. When the song had been learned, the groups sang in unison, each singing at a different tempo from the next. If you happened to close your eyes while the song was being sang, you could feel almost feel the arms of peace wrapping themselves around you as you drifted off into blissfulness. This is the effect the song had on me.

Around 10.42am, Professor Graham Welch gave a presentation, in which he spoke of the importance of the use of imagery as a rehearsal technique. Singing is a technical process which involves the use of both the left and right brain.

The presentation also showed that there is a linear relationship between the increase in age and singing ability. As children get older, they tend to struggle a bit more due to vocal changes. However, once they get past the height of their vocal transition, they are better able to sing. For example, boys tend to attain deeper voices, while girls voices become more breathy making it difficult to prolong musical notes. It helps when training with someone who is aware of these natural changes so they can work around the physicality of the voice, and its range, as opposed to waiting out the transition process.

The presentation further informed that increased exercise helps maintaining a ‘young sounding’ voice.
Around 11.30am there was a discussion about the findings in the presentation. A book titled ‘A soprano on her head’ by Eloise Ristad was recommended by Katherine Zeserson, to improve understanding on the workings of the voice and how limits in vocal range can be overcome.

Between the hours of 12 and 1pm, a singing workshop was held which incorporated the use of various vowel sounds being sang at different tempos and in different vocal ranges. I refer to this moment as a ‘teasing of the ears’ it was very pleasant to hear the harmonious sounds, just as it is pleasant to the eyes to view abstract art with its various mixed colors, oil painted on canvas. There are no simple words to describe the experience.

Lyrics were later incorporated into the harmony, lyrics that sang of peace and love. A wonderful guest led this singing session, and the brilliance in his voice was astounding. He mentioned that there is a difference between making sounds and singing. That a failure to sing from the heart, can only be described as making sounds. He was a pleasant teacher and he further proved his point by encouraging everyone to sing from within. The sounds that graced the room with the following of his instruction surpassed that of any that had been made before this encouragement.

There was a short break after this session and upon resumption, a talk was held about the dynamics of singing. Around 2.30pm musical games were played. At this point I exited the room with a fellow colleague to type up a Portuguese song, in order to have it back in record time for it to be learned.

I found it interesting to see how the voice can be clouded with uncertainty-and in the process lose its brilliance- when learning a new song, especially one in an unfamiliar language; a point that further proves that singing is also a psychological activity. At about 4.14pm, a final discussion was held about the entire day’s activities as well as everyone’s thoughts and feelings about the songs and the topics discussed. It was both an entertaining and learning experience for me to partake of, and I am pleased to have been a part of the entire program.

I hope you have enjoyed following our activities through social media!

It has been a pleasure,


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