Singing from the Soles of the Feet

For thousands of years, our ancestors sang to accompany work, devotion, seasonal rituals and social gatherings – to express joy, grief, rage, tenderness, hope and fear. All these emotions can be given full range through the power and beauty of the voice.

To help unlock this, Frankie uses a range of gentle movements and exercises to help relax and free the body and voice. She focuses on how to involve the whole body – to give rise to the voice from the feet on up. She uses chants and songs from around the world, along with simple structures to create vocal ‘events’.

If You Can Talk You Can Sing

Frankie believes passionately that singing is our birthright. For thousands of years our ancestors sang as naturally as they spoke. They sang to accompany everyday activities – at work, at play, at devotion and dance – and for their own pleasure. No one was excluded, so everyone’s skill and confidence developed naturally. This workshop is an opportunity for anyone to explore the melodic voice in an easy-going, supportive atmosphere. The aim is to tap into the joy, strength and energy of singing with others, and to find a range of colour and expression in each of our voices. This is especially helpful for people who have little confidence with their melodic voice.

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.