Saturday, 19 February 2011

Finding a Voice

Two Kings

It has been a very busy couple of days. I had to take the car to Inverness again to see if Toyota could get rid of the leak in the drivers door. Up at the crack of dawn and at the garage early enough for a late breakfast, having put the little black trusty vehicle into the hands of the mechanics.

I met up with friends and we shopped, which was rather less painful than usual, and eventually ate at our favourite Chinese Buffet restaurant.

To fill in the rest of the 5 hours before my car was ready to be discharged, we had decided to see The King's Speech. What a wonderful film, so deserving of it's zillion BAFTA Awards.

I was, of course struck by the majestic performances of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, but what I loved the most was the way in which the film was so truly understated, so very British, and so totally non block busterish. Do not get me wrong - I love a good block buster, especially a Sci Fi with families of aliens, but I also love a quiet and dignified film which is full of truth, and so touching.

With my teacher hat on I found myself nodding in agreement with the methods Lionel Logue was using with the stammering King George V1. The fact that tension was such a strong factor in his inability to speak, and that the distraction technique can often be the winner of winners in giving a person a voice. I loved the fact he made the King sing - it is almost unheard of for a stammer to appear when singing, and the flow of a good legato line using abdominal breathing releases a voice, and allows for performance - either speaking or singing.

I empathised so much with Logue who had to persuade, cajole, nurture and sometimes shout at his Royal pupil who, not unnaturally, felt a complete fool attempting some of these, seemingly silly exercises.

I experience this all the time - 'I look so stupid opening my mouth that far' - 'I can't make those exaggerated mouth shapes' - 'When I breathe that deeply my tummy rumbles!' - Oh yes I have heard them all....................

The King seemed so desperate, and became such a willing and hard working student, it was, in the final moments of the film, heart breaking to watch, at close quarters, the effort, the sweat and the sheer determination he showed to conquer his mammoth speech problem.

But he did it. We never conquer 100%, but enough to make life easier, and to give us a true sense of self worth.

Do go and see it.

On Friday I taught two of my pupils from Inverness. Young M is the teenaged girl whose voice has virtually broken, and in the space of 6 months dropped from high soprano to warm mezzo. She is a glowing example of trust. She saw a number of speech specialists and therapists, to make sure there was not a medical problem, but I felt in my bones that it was just a massive 'girl' voice break.

She is pretty much back to full strength, but full strength in her 'new' voice. She can produce a warm full blooded tone, and has made great progress in her development.

I am so proud of the way she trusted me, and even when things were very gloomy, and it seemed as though she had lost her voice, she did just what I asked. The proof of the pudding................she has it all back. It is one of the most wonderful rewards of my job. Giving a voice back.

A good day indeed!

PS It crossed my mind to shut down the singing teaching and start up the speech therapy! Don't worry, I like music with my words!!

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