The Joy of Singing

Singing is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to give us a feeling of well-being, relaxation and energy. Singing with others also allows us to create a sense of communal celebration. Recent medical research has verified how parts of the brain’s pleasure centres are stimulated by singing, and how fuller breathing stimulates the circulation. We start with simple body loosening and voice exercises. These lead into ways of playing with creative vocal expression. The workshop also includes songs and chants from different parts of the world. The workshop is open to anyone regardless of their prior experience. We create a supportive, easy-going and playful atmosphere, with an approach of exploration rather than ‘getting it right”.

Performace Skills Workshop

Historically, song has been used to bind communities, pass on stories and legends, comment on contemporary happenings, poke fun and amuse, commemorate / celebrate life’s important events, and to accompany work, devotion and recreation. Lacking these community contexts, how do we find our way into the heart of a song and communicate it? Indeed, how do we select songs, why do they speak to us, and why do we wish to sing them to others? This workshop explores how best to sing a song in the light of these questions – exploring such essential ingredients as vocal quality, phrasing, emotional truth and presence. There will be time for any participant who wants to work on a particular song.

Finding your Voice

Our voice is the most intimate expression of ourselves – both in speech and song. This workshop offers an opportunity to explore our voices, and to discover the wondrous variety of expression, colour and range that we are capable of.

We will create a supportive, non-judgemental space and use many simple and enjoyable games, exercises, chants and songs to aid relaxation and freeing voice and body. So much of what we communicate is in the ‘music’ of the voice. Hence the greater awareness we have of our own ‘music’, the more effective we can be.

Everyone is welcome but this workshop is of particular interest to those who use their voices as their professional instrument of communication – e.g. teachers, trainers and counsellors.

The Voices of the Archetypes of Myth

This workshop provides an exciting way to expand and liberate vocal colour, range and expressivity. It uses movement, imagination and storytelling to access a wide range of vocal qualities and expression through exploring figures that inhabit the world’s mythology, such as The Huntress, The Trickster, The Child, The Mother and The Crone. These archetypes are not a character or caricature but a particular aspect or quality in all of us.

Singing For Everyone

Workshops for Teachers and Educators The workshop is suitable for anyone interested in singing, acting and self-discovery. Singing is our birthright; recent research shows that our ancestors have been singing for at least fifty thousand years and that music is ‘hard-wired’ into us. For the last thirty three years, Frankie Armstrong has pioneered workshops based on this premise – immersing participants in an approach to singing that replicates the organic development that occurs in cultures where people sing as naturally as they talk.
This approach could be called ‘social singing’. Here the impulse behind singing is essentially cooperative and communal, as people sing from the cradle to the grave, to accompany ritual, work and devotion, and for pleasure.

The aim of these workshops is to enable educators to increase their range, resonance, enjoyment, ease and confidence with their voices, and to give them an approach and materials to offer in turn to their pupils.

Frankie’s approach includes the following elements:

  • simple, valuable warm-up exercises that prepare the body and voice for strain-free energised singing
  • easy, fun yet systematic ways of understanding the body-breath-voice relationship
  • playful, practical ways of approaching voice that to help bypass the negative experiences that many people have about ‘singing’ in our culture, and to help develop their innate musicality
  • simulated work activities (such as those undertaken by our ancestors) with the time-honoured pattern of call and response
  • ways of further freeing the voice and exploring and playing with sound and melody
  • the use of imagination and concrete imagery to explore aspects of the voice (e.g. ‘being elephants’ – to enable participants to feel both strong and soft)
  • chants, songs and rounds from around the world that are suitable for children and young people – varying in complexity, harmony and rhythm according to age and experience
  • guidelines on teaching songs that are designed to be inclusive and do not require the ability to read written music (i.e. learning by listening and copying, as people have learnt throughout most of human history, and has recently been revived by the Suzuki Method of instrumental teaching)
  • simple structures for group improvisations that enable people to participate at their own level, and to develop their own harmonies

Note: All of this work on voice will also help teachers with the strain-free, expressive spoken voice.

A crucial aspect of this approach is the creation of a supportive, non-judgemental atmosphere by:

  • fostering curiosity and discovery rather than imposing rigid notions of having to “get it right”
  • enabling each participant to develop from their own level of experience and skill, whatever this may be
  • and leaning by doing, then reflecting and evaluating

Frankie has been singing professionally since 1964, and also calls upon a background in social, youth and group work. She is committed to voice and song as a way of increasing personal and group confidence, as well as musicality and expressivity.

Bespoke Workshops with Frankie

Frankie builds the workshops around the expressed needs/hopes of the participants. she has been developing this approach and finds it an exciting and satisfying challenge. As with all her workshops, it is not necessary to have prior experience of singing, nor to be able to read music or have formal musical training. People with or without this background are welcome.
Each workshop always begins with body and voice preparation, which is an essential component , whatever the emphasis for the workshop.

Frankie will then outline what is on offer (see below) and then ask participants to express their priorities, and create the workshop around these requests as best she can. So far, this approach seems to have left satisfied customers.

What Frankie has to offer, The following are the “ingredients” that can go to making up the workshop;

  1. VOICE RELEASE: through a simple understanding of the use of body/breath to make the best of your voice – it’s resonance, range, openness and vitality. Appropriate muscle engagement so as to find the wonderful balance of energy and relaxation needed for free voice use – including the role of the feet, knees, belly, ribs/lungs/diaphragm; and neck, jaw, tongue, and throat relaxation.
  2. VOCAL EXPRESSIVITY: This involves different timbres and qualities so as to express various moods, feelings and cultural qualities. For thousands of years our ancestors expressed archetypal emotions through ritual chants and song – from tenderness to rage, celebration to grief. Frankie has a variety of ways that she can call on to explore this sometimes challenging but rewarding area. This can lead to;
  3. SONG INTERPRETATION: Depending on the time available and the number in the workshop, this can include working with a group song; finding what a powerful difference the way we use our breath makes; having the group explore different moods and intentions for songs. Or, if there’s time, working with individuals on a song, a song offering coaching and feed back in the spirit of support and suggestion.
  4. EXPLORING HARMONIES: Because of her interest in songs from different parts of the world and from differnt times in history, Frankie is interested in helping to open people’s ears to a variety of harmonies on the continuum from the totally random to the more orthodox. She has developed a range of simple exercises to help us be creative around harmony, to learn some simple ways of finding/developing our own harmonies to songs and repeated chants. There are also simple ways of exploring the range of feelings that different harmonies evoke. this approach is accessible whether people can or can’t read music and/or have ever had any formal musical training.
  5. VOCAL EVENTS: (posh name “Improvisation”) Over the years Frankie has created and collected a range of simple and fun structures that enable groups to make their own on-the-spot “compositions” Everyone can join in and find their own comfortable place within the structure; often we can move and “bop” about too.
  6. SONGS: Of course there will be songs. They will come from different parts of the world; some allow us to find our own harmonies and some will have arranged harmonies to learn. Rounds are always a good way of increasing listening skills, being both active and receptive – being aware of ourselves, and the totality of the group sound. Some will be gentle and some robust. All will be songs Frankie loves as this is a prerequisite for her teaching them.

My Life in Song and Politics

Recently I’ve been asked to sing/talk/discuss how I’ve been involved in singing for a variety of causes over the decades, and how and why I’ve involved myself in these.

Amongst others, I sang for the Anti-Apartheid and Anti-Vietnam War movements, and for Chile Solidarity. From the 70s, I sang for the Women’s Movement, and the Greenham Common Campaign, along with the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament. It has been my enormous privilege to sing at rallies in Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park and many a Town and Church Hall to raise awareness and funds for these issues. This all sounds very worthy but it involved a great deal of lively and spirited companionship, laughter and tears, and many a friendship. I’ve had such a blessed life that the least I can do is to offer my voice in this way.

If you or your organisation would be interested in a presentation (a talk with songs) about the use and value of singing in these contexts, please do give me a ring or email. These presentations include participation as I always involve people in choruses and group songs.

Voice Leader Training 2019

DATES FOR 2019 26th October to 1st November 2019

Frankie Armstrong with Sarah Harman, Visiting Tutor Darien Pritchard
– Abbey Sutton Courtenay, Abingdon, Oxfordshire

The Natural Voice Leaders’ Training has been running since 1988 and the course offers a unique opportunity to attend an intensive, residential week long training, focusing on the melodic natural voice. It is designed for people who already run voice workshops or singing groups, those who wish to, or those who want to incorporate voice into their existing work. Places on the modular course are limited to 8 people. In addition to individual and group activities to

help people focus on their own needs in these areas, we a

Frankie Armstrong and Sarah Harman will lead this training and will be joined by visiting tutor Darien Pritchard. (See biographies below). The Natural Voice Leaders’ Training has been running since 1988 and the course offers a unique opportunity to attend an intensive, residential week long training focusing on the melodic natural voice, in beautiful surroundings in rural Oxfordshire. It is designed for people who already run voice workshops or singing groups, those who wish to, or those who want to incorporate voice into their existing work. Sarah and Frankie intend to model the importance of finding dynamic relaxation, using imagination and humour, and remembering that laughing is one of the best things for the body and voice. In addition to individual and group activities to help people focus on their own needs in these areas, we also look at:

  • working on and making the most of your own voice,
  • the appropriate stepping stones to help others make the most of their voices,
  • the process of working with groups,
  • creating and setting up improvisations,
  • structuring and pacing workshops,
  • dealing with difficult situations/individuals,
  • contexts in which this approach can be applied,
  • starting and sustaining choirs and other groups.

In addition to all of the above, participants will be given a course handbook, with a comprehensive number of exercises and practical information on areas around freelance working as a voice leader. They will also receive a CD with exercises for the body, the breath and the voice, and ways of exploring vocal technique.

As well as bodywork being an integral part of the training course, there are daily body/voice preparation sessions, focusing on aspects of body release and energizing that relate directly to vocal expression.

In addition to this daily physical preparation, visiting specialist Darien Pritchard will help participants understand the anatomy around breathing and will use his expertise as a Feldenkrais teacher to help participants maximize vocal release.

Please look at the About page of the Natural Voice Practitioner Network website (www.naturalvoice.net) for a clear outline of the style and approach of this course. Even if you have attended a workshop with Frankie or Sarah before, we would both like to have a chat with you prior to booking to ensure that this is the right course for you and to make a personal connection.   Please phone Frankie (+44) 029 2048 0429 or Sarah on (+44) 1874 713 184

We also look at:

    • working on and making the most of your own voice,
    • the appropriate stepping stones to help others make the most of their voices,
    • the process of working with groups
      creating and setting up improvisations,
    • structuring and pacing workshops,
    • dealing with difficult situations/individuals,
    • and contexts in which this approach can be applied.
    • sustaining long term work with choirs, and project development and marketing.

Participants will also be provided with an information pack on areas such as self-employment, finance, insurance, creating a CV, DBS check etc. for singing and choir leaders.

As well as bodywork being an integral part of the training course, there are daily warm-up sessions, focusing on aspects of body release and energizing that relate directly to vocal expression.

In addition to this daily physical preparation Darien Pritchard will help us understand the anatomy around breathing and will use his expertise as a Feldenkrais teacher to maximize vocal release

Please look at the Philosophy (and Working Principles) page of the Natural Voice Practitioner Network website (www.naturalvoice.net ) for a clear outline of the style and approach of this course.

ACCOMMODATION: Accommodation is in twin or single rooms in the Abbey’s guest house. Bathrooms are shared and some rooms have sinks.

FOOD: is delicious, freshly cooked vegetarian.

For Special Diets, contact the Abbey at least one week before the course.

Abbey Sutton Courtenay, 01235 847401 admin@theabbey.uk.com 

ACCESS: For access enquiries, contact Abbey Sutton Courtenay direct.

 LOCATION: Detailed information on Abbey Sutton Courtenay can be found on their website www.theabbey.uk.com. The nearest bus and train stations are at Didcot Parkway (from where a taxi or bus can be taken). We will give you fellow participant’s contact details close to the course time to facilitate lift sharing.

TIMES: The course starts with supper at 6.30pm on Saturday 26th October 2019. You can arrive from 4pm to settle into your room. We finish with lunch at 2pm on Saturday 2nd November 2019.

COST:

The total course fee is £1500. This consists of:

  • a non-refundable deposit of £300 to reserve your place
  • a 2nd installment of £600 to be paid by the 26th July 2019
  • a final payment of £600 to be paid by 26th September 2019OR you can pay an ‘early bird’ fee of £1460 (£40 discount) by paying in full by 26th July 2019

 

IMPORTANT: Cancellation arrangements apply – see booking information.

 

[Note: Some past participants have managed to organise grants from Arts Training bodies, appropriate charitable bodies, through workplace further training and retraining schemes, and via “Arts and Business”.]

 

Applications: Sarah Harman sarahharmany@btinternet.com

abby

TIMES:

HOW TO APPLY:If you are not already familiar with Frankie and her work please telephone her for a chat on 029 20480429 or email to ensure that this course is suitable for you. For booking forms and further information please contact Sarah Harman at Email

FRANKIE ARMSTRONG has sung professionally in the folk scene and the women”s” and the peace movement since the 1960s. She pioneered community voice workshops in 1975. She continued her previous trade as a trainer in social and youth work alongside the voice workshops for a decade, before focusing exclusively on the voice workshops and singing.

It was her passion for the traditional styles of singing in the British Isles and from around the world that informed the development of her voice and singing workshops. Having been involved with folk and political songs since the 1950s, she”s always been fascinated by the way that voice can enhance the individual”s sense of well being and also develop a sense of community. It can link us to the thread of song that comes down to us from our ancestors. Hence she has always been interested in exploring voice and song in its historical, cultural, political and spiritual dimensions.

She also sees the voice as a tool to aid our self expression, creativity and confidence. Over the past two decades she has especially focused on the body-voice connection, having worked and trained with a variety of bodywork and movement teachers.

Whatever the focus of the workshop, she believes in creating a supportive, generous atmosphere where people do not feel judged or under pressure to get things “right”. The intention is to help us all find a creative balance between relaxation and energy.

Over the years, Frankie has run workshops for a range of community and other groups. In London, Frankie is a guest teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama, and has worked regularly at the National Theatre Studio. She is a visiting teacher in Australia at the National Institute for the Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in Sydney and the Victorian College for the Arts (VCA) in Melbourne. Frankie has been a tutor at International Voice Conferences in the UK, Australia and North America, and is an honorary member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA) of North America.

For 25 years, Frankie has trained apprentices, and run training groups (with Darien Pritchard) to pass on her approach and style of voice work. She is a founding member of the Natural Voice Practitioners Network (UK) which grew out of these training weeks,

SARAH HARMAN originally trained and worked in the theatre, and has been leading singing workshops and choirs since 1988. She has led groups with absolute beginners, disabled people, young people on probation, and in schools, hospices, hospitals and community settings, and has worked in Nicaragua, Australia and Spain. She is particularly passionate about working with disadvantaged communities, and believes that singing together in harmony is a fantastic way of bringing people together in supportive community. Sarah currently runs three community choirs in South Wales and regular ‘Music and Memories’ sessions for people with dementia. She will bring her experience of establishing and leading long-term groups to the Voice Leaders training. With a strong belief that leading workshops requires considerable skill, awareness and planning, Sarah has developed workshop materials and exercises to help singers gain the ability and learn techniques for leading effective, inclusive and inspirational workshops. She has been designing training for workshop leaders and voice teachers since the early 90s, and worked as Training Manager for Community Music Wales. She has also worked for the Arts Council of Wales and leads training for Citizens Advice (on Training Skills, Mental Health and Dealing with Aggression). Sarah is a songwriter and regular performer in styles ranging from folk to Baroque classical music. She sings with the duo Blameless Hussies, with her quartet, The Quiet Ranters, and with Frankie in the five piece ‘Variegated Women’. The songs she writes and sings are witty and thoughtful, bringing together the personal and the political.

SARAH AND FRANKIE  have run a variety of trainings and workshops together over the past two decades. These include Access and Inclusion, group-work skills, voice development and improvisation, as well as teaching songs from a variety of cultures and those that focus on social justice. They are excited at the prospect of further working together in this new context.

Darien Pritchard  www.dynamicmassage.co.uk has been a bodyworker for 35 years, including 25 of training massage professionals. He is qualified practitioner of massage and the Feldenkrais Method® of movement awareness. For 12 years, he was a co-director of the Massage Training Institute, a UK-wide organisation of holistic massage schools, and for 5 years taught massage in a university degree course.

For 25 years he has run a programme of professional development workshops for massage practitioners. He coauthored a student textbook Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology for the Massage Therapist (2001), and wrote the career-maintenance reference book Dynamic Bodyuse for Effective, Strain-Free Massage (2007).

He and Frankie have run workshops together for 25 years (including the training courses since 1988). Darien provides the detailed bodywork component that :
prepares the body for free vocal expression
Aids understanding of aspects of our anatomy and their relevance to giving voice.