This past weekend I headed up to London to start the Weekend Vocal Workout with Mary King at the Royal Academy of Music. The course began on the Friday evening where we spent the first couple of hours working on warm up activities and vocal warm ups before beginning to look at the opera for the weekend.
This weekend course is aimed for people who sing to experience different styles of singing that they may not have had the experience with. Being a Musical Theatre singer -Classical, Gospel, Jazz and Pop are not styles that I have much confidence in and I felt this course would be very valuable for me considering that Modern Musical Theatre is a fusion of all styles. For example, Hamilton and In the Heights are full of rap and modern influences due to it’s success it is likely to pop up in future musicals and considering I want that to be my career I need to be prepared and be able to embrace it.
The opera we were working on for the weekend was the Thomas Purcell Dido and Aeneaus – I literally had no idea what this was – and on first look I was feeling worried as I do not have a female opera range. I asked Mary, who is an absolute legend who really knows her stuff, if I could sing with the Tenors and she said that this was fine. Being in a comfortable range then allowed me to sing more comfortably and really enjoy the piece. I noticed when looking at the harmonies that my Sight Reading is far better than I give myself credit for as combined with my ear from the previous harmony I am able to feel confident with my reading,
At the beginning of the morning I had a bit of a turn because being at the Student Accomodation was really odd and it was all a bit much so I had a little cry on the phone to Max and started the day.
DISASTER MORNING. Got on the tube and arrived at Bakers Street before realising I didn’t have my bag (how I managed that I don’t know) or my music so I had to get back on the tube and go back to get them meaning I was late. The venue was also not the Academy so then I got lost but by the time I arrived they were still registering and gathering so I didn’t miss anything.
Again we started with warm ups and Mary gave some great postural advise and techniques for releasing tongue tension and jaw tension. This was very helpful for me as this is something I struggle with,
We carried on working on Dido and Aeneaus and understanding the words and phrasing to add emphasis to convey meaning. This also gave us the opportunity to edit the female voices into smaller groups and make it more of a performance. After this session I definitely enjoyed the Purcell much more and was not as freaked out by the classical style.
We then had a special guest Ken Burton come in and teach us how to sing Gospel. I was actually shook because if im honest I just thought Gospel was like feeling it but theres actually a lot of technique behind it and a lot of history and culture that you have to get into to the way you say the words ect. It was really difficult and we weren’t v good at it tbh but we all enjoyed it so much we all got into it and a few of us took turns at the ad libing as we sang ‘Lay my Burdens Down’ and it was just really fun and people even came into the theatre we were rehearsing in from the street in their pride costumes to watch.
The Jazz session led by Lakka D was particularly difficult but enjoyable. We were working on ‘Feet do your stuff’ a song I didn’t know but was really funny and had a great vibe to it. I actually didn’t know a lot about jazz so when the music theory people were talking about 2-5-1 cadences and the perfect cadence and chords and notes I was slightly lost but I kept asking questions so i could take notes and explain. Being in this session actually made me realise how much I want to learn music theory properly and achieve my Grade 5 Music Theory so that I can know about all this stuff as well. We started singing through the chord structure and the key so that we could feel the basis of the song which would help with scatting.
When we started learning the words, each part takes turns to carry the tune whilst the other parts play with the harmonies. We even added in solo sections for people to have a go scatting which everyone that did work on that did really well.
We then had a break and headed back to the Academy to split into the 4 groups for our Masterclass, we were working with Tim Richards a vastly accredited vocal coach who has worked with so many great people and projects including X Factor, I’d Do Anything, West End vocalists and is also employed by Sony Record Company to work with the big big pop singers. We each presented a song (just my luck I had to go first as I was ‘B’) and I sang Ireland from Legally Blonde. He was really nice about it but then showed me how to use a different part of my voice which I had never really used before and I was shook that it even sounded that nice I never dreamt I could sing the way I did with his help. He was also great at showing me how to relieve tongue tensions. One of the things Tim is really passionate about is knowing how change and these techniques feel in our bodies as then we can practice them and they will become habit and how we sing.
Every single person that got up he worked amazingly with them and they went from brilliant to outstanding. All of these kooky techniques that he was trying were so useful to all of us and I wrote loads of notes because they were things that applied to all of us and we could all learn from.
As this was the last day, we arrived and were split into two groups. My group started with a vocal warm up with Mary where she made a notable comment on the improvement of my posture and how I hold myself. Showing us a lot more techniques for posture and vocal health I was starting to really appreciate how much I need to be aware of my Posture as this difference it makes to the quality of sound when I am standing correctly.
We then had a pilates session where we focused on our breathing and engaging certain muscles. We were tasked to breathe into our ribs sideways something I found totally weird and we tried a few positions to achieve it properly but it was an odd sensation and not my number one thing. However, it was nice after a busy weekend to just focus on breathing and relax.
We then started the Musical Theatre class where we worked on One Short Day from Wicked (Classic 😉 but considering a lot of the singers are classical singers they weren’t familiar with Wicked).
The next section before we started fully rehearsing for the showcase we had a Pop/Rock session with this guy Barnaby who is in charge of finding the Strictly Singers which is actually really cool. What he was saying was actually really applicable to audition technique as well as just being a pop singer and trying to get discovered for your voice. He was so helpful with what he was saying and full of great anecdotes which were super interesting. He was just a G guy yh he was great.
Luckily, we got to have a Q and A session so I could GRILL Mary on everything she knows and likewise I learnt alot about where everyone else in the group was at and they asked questions I couldnt think of.
We then got to perform in the Dukes Hall on this lush stage!! Overall a top weekend.