The Case of the Stiff Singer

Rachel Bennett
George was a lot less physically relaxed than he needed to be, especially for the setting.

George was a strong singer and was rehearsing for a night of Cabaret in a small, intimate club setting – a presentation of his favorite jazz standards.

This was George’s first ever solo performance and nothing seemed to help him lose the feeling that his arms and hands were huge appendages at his side that he couldn’t control.

He felt and sounded as stiff and formal as he looked, even though the songs were well within his range and capability.

He clearly required some kind of strategy to allow him to experience the connection between his body movement and his voice.

The slightest movement can elicit a beauty in the voice that is there because the emotions and the body are inseparable

When a singer engages with their whole body, they will deepen their work on various levels, not least in the way they connect to the audience; the slightest movement can elicit a beauty in the voice that is there because the emotions and the body are inseparable.

George lacked experience with the language of the voice as well as with responding to direction and couldn’t work from the inside to the outside – so I had to work from the outside – in!

I invited him to a rehearsal and had prepared the room with tables and different objects on them.

I selected objects that were as beautiful as I could find – a lovely vase, a long leaf, a silk scarf, a candle (lit), a glass of wine (Ribena really) and a beautiful miniature Japanese carving; George was delighted with these playthings and probably relieved that it looked like fun! We got straight to work.

His task was to visit each table and explore the objects as he sang, staying for as long as possible at each one – even if a whole song was delivered as he explored one object.

He forgot his arms and hands as they appreciated the objects and he played with the space in a new way – looking up at the leaf through light, caressing his face with the scarf, feeling the form of the vase with closed eyes, etc. His voice was suddenly full of dynamic and his arms and hands were free.

He had found a deeper level and meaning in the songs

We moved to a couple of songs stood in the floor centre with no objects, but with the memory of how they felt. George was moved to tears in one song and was certainly emotionally engaged and physically active throughout this part of the session. He had found a deeper level and meaning in the songs.

George was a lot less ‘terrified’ at the event than he expected to be; he decided to keep a couple of the objects on the piano as he performed; I thought this was a sensible and perfectly acceptable idea at this stage of his development, especially since he sang like a bird!

– Raie


Ask our Bloggers