13th January 2020
We’re pleased to bring you another blog update from Bertie Newbery, one of our students studying for an MfA in Professional Voice Studies. In this series, Bertie reflects on her time as a student at the School. This relatively new course is one with all sorts of material to cover from accents and dialects to vocal anatomy.
We’ll let Bertie tell you more!
My mornings are mayhem. There are young children to get ready for school, with inevitable lost shoe arguments, and that’s before an hour-long drive to my Professional Voice course, at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Often, I have to run to my classroom, out of breath, bags swinging and books in arms. But, for anyone who feels stressed or harassed, this course is up there with a yoga retreats, for relaxation, and invariably within the hour, I feel almost Zen. That’s because a ‘good voice’ and stress don’t mix, so ‘release of tension’ is lesson number one.
I spend a lot of my lessons lying on the floor, taking slow, deep breaths. Massages are recommended. My two tutorshave mastered relaxing voices and a kind, ‘don’t fret’ style of student-management. After all if they tear a strip off a student, his voice will go to pot for the afternoon lesson. Carol, head of the voice course, exudes ‘calm’, dispelling student anxiety wherever she can, and dispensing reassuring encouragement and praise.
What bliss, for anyone with too much on at home, to take daily classes in relaxation. Of course, R&R isn’t the goal, a ‘free voice’ is the goal. But that, miraculously improves the more I am able to melt into the floor. The sound that comes out of my mouth after doing release work, is wholly different to the one I make when I’m rushing about, it comes from deep within, and rings like a bell. It’s extraordinary that after of shouting, singing, laughing and talking, there is a new ‘voice’ to discover. And no wonder – nobody ever told me that a gorgeous, powerful, sustainable voice only comes when you kiss goodbye to that habitual ‘clenched jaw’, those high shoulders and that held-in tummy. You could say this course teaches students to make less effort, let it all hang loose. And what’s not to like about that?
One of the reasons that relaxing helps your voice to ring, is that it has a better body in which to resonate. Once your jaw is dangling without an iota of ‘clench’, and your head is balanced beautifully on top of your spine, leaving your shoulders and neck to relax, your throat and mouth become larger, softer cavities that make great echo chambers. In them, the sounds that you make can now bounce around and be amplified. I’m not there yet, but I have moments when I feel the sounds I make taking on a life of their own before they come out of my mouth. I know from books that some opera singers and actors feel vibrations in their hips, or at the tops of their heads, as secondary resonance spreads through their bones and muscles. Well, who knew that speaking could bring with it such amazing sensations. I look forward to the day when I can report vibrations, if I’m really accomplished, in my little toes, when I say good morning.