LAKELAND SONGLINE – MAY 27-30 2011
a singing walk through the Lake District
Join a group of singers walking for three days from Castlerigg Stone circle near Keswick to Coniston, via Derwent Water, Catbells, Borrowdale, the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel and the Langdale valley, Loughrigg Tarn, Little Langdale, Cathedral Cavern, Tarn Howes, and Coniston Water.
Some songs will be learnt in advance with the help of youtube learning videos – and possibly a learning CD too – some will be learnt as we travel with stops for workshops along the way
We will be staying in three different camp sites along the way situated in stunning locations – those who enjoy wild swimming will have plenty of opportunities in rivers, lakes and under waterfalls. Those who book early may also be able to book local B&B if they prefer – we will provide addresses close to where we will be camping.
All the heavy bags will be carried by our support vehicle and meals will be provided at the camps. All you will need to carry with you is a day rucksack with waterproofs, sandwiches and a flask – and a torch.
There will be concerts along the way with singing from ourselves and from local singers who will meet us – as well as many informal opportunities to sing outside in the hills, in vast Lakeland caverns, beside waterfalls – and around the fires of country pubs.
Singers will need to have had some experience of hill walking and good basic hillwalking clothes – especially walking boots with a good tread, and waterproofs. For camping you will need a small tent (or share a larger one with a friend), sleeping mat and sleeping bag (we may be able to hire all of these for you if you don’t have them.)
In the event of bad weather we will make adjustments to our route – there will be many opportunities for shelter and refreshment along the way.
Cost is £95 including food and camp fees. To book – a deposit of £50 will secure your place.
Booking Conditions: The £50 deposit is refundable until January 1 2011 – after which we reserve the right to keep it. The remainder will need to be paid by February 1 (which is also refundable minus the deposit until March 1 after which we reserve the right to keep the full ammount.) All places are fully transferrable – ie you may find someone else to take your place as long as they are fully informed and prepared for joining us.
BELOW IS AN ACCOUNT OF A PREVIOUS WHITSUN LAKE DISTRICT SINGING TOUR:
May 28-31 2004 The Hills are Alive – Lakeland Walking Tour with Concerts
We did everything we planned to and much more. Sang in the Little Langdale cave, walked through the Langdale valley and over to Wast Water, and then Buttermere, Borrowdale and Easedale. Did our concerts in all the little chapels and pubs and ending on the terraces of Lancrigg Hotel. Camped by mountain streams and under rocky crags.
The shared repertoire worked better than I had hoped (I sent out the music in advance along with a learning tape for those who learnt by ear).
Our first singing was by the Colwith Waterfalls where we sang Plovi Barko and Tebe Poem (after a warm up in the woods and a few rounds) which worked wonderfully. We sang Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrica on top of Esk Hause with extraordinary views over Borrowdale, Langdale and Scafell. Performed Unison in Harmony and Go Go Shavtala on the verdant terraces of Lancrigg Vegetarian Hotel after a couple of run throughs coming down Far Easedale.
And our concert on Sunday in Stonethwaite went like a dream – you could imagine we’d been practicing for months rather than just the weekend we were walking together.
I think what I liked most was how soon we became a community – where everyone helped each other, like the singing made people more aware of each other’s needs.
I also liked the way we were like a flock of birds where we would turn up somewhere to sing and everyone would be all excited going in all different directions and talking and seemingly completely anarchic. Then we’d start to sing and everyone was completely together as one unit, going in one direction.
It reminded me a bit of how choirs on tour behave – like Northern Harmony and Solidarity – when they visit. That sense of chaos, and then they’d all come together in a circle (which we did as well on many occasions to remind us of our purpose and to let everyone say what they needed to – as well as to hear the harmonies clearly!).
I learned that there are many things which you take for granted when you do a workshop in a hall which you have to create when you’re out in the mountains. Like the focus you get when there are four walls around you, can be recreated by getting everyone into a cirlce by a waterfall, or in a cave, or in a sheltered spot behind a crag on the mountain passes.
I like to think that all this returning to nature – swimiming in mountain tarns and under waterfalls, camping with the sounds of woodpeckers and cuckoos in the morning, seeing the mountains by moonlight and the clouds peeling back to let us pass in sunlight – all that nature connected us to our natural voices. If nothing else, our lungs were expanded, our bodies connected and our hearts fired up!
Some songs were easy to teach. I taught Ali Burns’ And a Mountain (“when it is no longer a mountain, goes back to the sea”) on top of Greenup Edge. To remind them of the words, I mimed a mountain with my hands and the sea with a wave motion – before I realised it was easier to just point to Bowfell behind me and the Irish Sea beyond Wasdale.
We sang Tarry Wool at the Black Sail Youth Hostel, and Dolly the tame sheep who the warden feeds with biscuits, came and hassled us for food.
Breege slipped and hurt her hand – so she lay on the grass and we sat around her and sang the Georgian healing song Batonebo. I have to confess I was doing it somewhat ironically, pretending we were mountain healers – but it worked. She stood up healed!
Afterwards we saw the mountain rescue team air lifting someone off the mountain who’d broken a leg. We wanted to go up to them and say “Stand to one side, we’re singers.” And then sing Batonebo round the injured body. You can imagine it at the scene of car crashes, people screaming, blood pouring out in rivers, and someone leaning over the body turning to the crowd: “Is anyone here a harmony singer?”.
Our group of 14 certainly sang a lot. Walking up a hill, we’d stop to let the ones at the back catch up and start a song, teaching the last part to the ones who arrived on the crag last. But also most people seemed to sing as they walked. Especially Geoff and Zaka who kept up a Georgian serenade right through the Langdale valley.
David Stewart from the Silsden singers said that there’d been research which showed that when you sing your body floods with the natural painkillers and mood enhancers called endorphins. So the singing eased off all the pains which might have arisen from blisters and tired muscles.
The Hills were alive with our singing – and continued to echo with our songs till we sang here again the following year – May 27-30 2005 – at the Black Sail Pass Youth Hostel. And the year after that along the Dales Way from Sedbergh to Ilkley. And in 2007 through the Howgill Hills, in then in 2008 and 2009 in Sedbergh. Join us in 2011 for what we hope will be the most magnificent of our walks!
I originally trained in voice work at drama school and have since been influenced by the work of voice teachers such as Frankie Armstrong, Kristin Linklater, Enrico Pardo, and Augusto Boal.
I have practiced and taught yoga for over 30 years and use it to help release the breath and voice as well as using ideas from other disciplines such as the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, ‘Brain Gym’ and Tai Chi.
World and Folk Songs
I have been interested in songs from around the world since I was child; my father worked with the United Nations in many different countries. I have vivid memories of the fruit sellers in the Polish Tatra mountains calling out in song what they had to offer, and of Cypriot folk song and dance in the mountain village where we lived in Cyprus in the 60’s.
Today I am also interested in the traditional music of Britain. I sing in a West Gallery choir – The Gladly Solemn Sound (pictured left) – singing songs which were sung in country churches in the 18th and 19th centuries before they were banned by the Victorians for being too lively.
I sing in a local quartet, singing folk songs from around the world, and lead several harmony singing groups in the area, as well as teaching voice and singing on performing arts courses, and in community music and arts centres.
I also have an interest in sacred song such as the uplifting harmonies of Taize singing from the French ecumenical community and the Harmonic Temple arrangements in a similar style using phrases from other religions created by Nikomo.
Landscape and Voice
My interest in the relationship between the landscape and voice started during a walk following country footpaths from Lands End to John O’Groats and continued during other walking tours around the world. I have a lasting memory of descending from the GR20 walking trail through the Corscian mountains to hear an Italian choir sitting outside their mountain refuge singing arias into the sunset.
My working life has included being an actor (my favourite role being the MC in Cabaret), a journalist (I was the health correspondent and agony uncle for a regional daily The Northern Echo), and a psychotherapist within NHS primary health care using voice, drama and the core principles of the ‘person-centred’ philosophy (empathy, authenticity and respect).
In my work with individuals I use some of these experiences to help my clients become artists and performers working with presence, release, and authenticity, as well as the standards of singing tuition – pitching, rhythm, intervals, extending range, engaging the diaphragm, opening the resonating spaces of the body etc.
I am also available for work with individuals and groups elsewhere in Britain and abroad.
Voice and Singing Tips
Extending the Range of Your Voice
If you want to extend your vocal range you may need to create a disciplined practice of the many exercises natural voice practitioners use in their work. Then practice them every day – even when you don’t feel like it. Here are a few ideas from our workshops:
The lift Cage – using this image, as your voice ascends higher, think down and vice versa. Being aware of both the cage and the weight that makes the lift work. Using your arms and body to facilitate this.
Using alternatively fff fff ooo, fff fff ohh, fff fff aw, ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah and different scales to engage the diaphragm and to release the larynx and stetch the vocal cords. Add walking as you do it.
Using creative imagery to ‘see’ your voice extending while doing the voice exercises.
Sirens. Allow your voice to siren up and down on different vowels.
Smiling while you sing to lift the soft palate and the ‘chubbies.’
Singing scales using words and phrases like Rimini, She sells sea shells on the sea shore, I rattled my bottles (rising a semitone each time), or Sandra Kerr’s wonderful Everybody, verybody, erybody, rybody, ybody, body, ody, dy, y.
Practicing singing through the break in your voice so you lose the hesitation there.
Using different archetypes to access higher and lower voices – like the maiden, the child, the hermit, and the crone (although you may need to work with Frankie Armstrong on these for a clearer and more thorough exploration).
Beginning to Sing
If you’re really motivated to free up your voice can I recommend a book by Kristin Linklater (a voice teacher living in the Orkneys) called Freeing the Natural Voice. She believes that the natural voice doesn’t need to be trained, but released – often by releasing the physical blocks which inhibit free breathing – in other words, when the diaphragm moves freely downwards towards the abdomen and other muscles in the body are not holding, or inhibiting this free movement.
Although she worked mostly with actors in universities in the USA and elsewhere before retiring, her understanding of the voice is fundamental to the natural voice as used in singing.Another book on a similar theme which you might find useful is The Right To Speak by a UK voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg.
Why Do So Many People Not Sing?
Personally I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘tone deafness’. If it does exist it’s very rare. The British voice teacher Frankie Armstrong believes that what many people suffer from is a translation problem – translating one timbre (the quality of sound or voice) into another.
Many kids in school are asked to sing what the teacher is singing – which if it is a man will be in a different octave – a much lower sound than they would be used to, certainly very different from the sound of the voice they hear in their own heads. Many singing teachers also use vibrato – where the voice vibrates around a note, again alien to most children. A piano or other instrument also sounds very unlike the human voice.
Failing to match the pitch, they are then told that they can’t sing and believing it, they stop even trying. Their vocal cords become partially atrophied, and losing their natural elasticity, are even more unable to stretch and move in the way a good singing voice needs to.Belief is a very powerful too.
Until Captain Webb swam the English Channel it was widely believed that it was impossible – that the human body was unable to withstand the strain. Now every year many adults and children do the swim – some of them even swim both ways – because they believe they can.
Maybe You Already Sing?
Likewise with singing. First of all know that you can sing. I suspect that you probably sing in the bath, or in the car, or along with football supporters, or in a church, or carols at christmas, or in the pub …. or wherever. Occasionally, maybe when others can’t hear you.
Also I suspect it’s highly unlikely that you talk in a monotone. There will be some modulation in your voice – it might get higher or lower when you are experiencing different emotions like anger or fear or love or excitement. Singing just takes those modulations and extends them – some people call it “joined up talking”.
Learning Through Play
When people are learning to paint it’s very common for them to play with paint in a non-critical environment. No one expects them to paint masterpieces the minute they pick up the brush. Likewise with singing – you might need to find a place where you can play with your voice in a non-critical place (shame is a powerful binding emotion which can stop you doing anything – another useful book: “Freeing the Shame that Binds” by John Bradshaw).
I find it helps to ask people in my voice groups to think of what comes out of their mouths as interesting rather than right or wrong. The Newcastle Jazz singer Katherine Zesserson says: “Every mistake is a new style”.
Find out what your voice can do and what works for you before you do the more complicated business of making it do what other people want it to do. This is what happens when someone hands you a sheet of paper with dots all over it and expects your voice to conform to the composer’s ideas (there are many political considerations here and we could – and I hope we shall – have some very interesting discussions).
Being able to have a free voice and also one which is controlled is a real balancing act!
Find Your Own Voice
First things first – find your own voice, let it be free, before bending to the dictates of others.Some children do seem to find it easier to sing than others – often because they have parents who sing, or they’re used to making those translations in the home from an instrument. But they learnt somewhere and so can anyone.
Practice Training the ear to notice the difference between a high note and a low note is not difficult, though may take a little time and practice (you’ll appreciate the rewards more if you give something of yourself).Nobody who was learning to play the violin would think twice about the need to practice their instrument – your voice is your instrument, the more you practice with it the better it will play.
When in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland cycling and walking through the mountains and wild landscape I was reminded of Goethe’s saying: “The outward form of the mountain can be seen by anyone, but it’s inner beauty can only be appreciated by those who have contributed a part of themselves”. Singing is like that too – what you give of yourself will dictate how much you get out of it.Also learning to ‘pitch match’ – where someone makes one or more notes with their voice and you match it – is not hard to do with practice.
Body based singing
Frankie Armstrong – with whom I was apprenticed when I first started working with the voice, and who has inspired thousands of people to find their voice and enjoy singing – often gets people to move while they mirror back sounds.Her ‘lief motif’ as a voice worker is where a group will pretend to be hoeing, swinging back and forth at the same time. She will call something out in time to the hoeing and everyone calls back; then others do the same.
Incidently, Frankie often points out that the demise of singing in our culture may have something to do with the lack of rhythmic work – sailors, farmers, marching soldiers, women in Barra dunking their tweed in huge vats, all used the rhythm of their work to help their singing (and vice versa). Also post-industrial society believes in specialisation – we have one person driving the fork lift truck, another working the lathe etc.
So we get into the mindset where some people are singers and others not.
OK – there’ll always be some great singers (in Stornaway at the end of May there’s a singing competition in Gaelic where some will sound better than others) – but everyone can sing, it is our birthright.I hope your journey into singing is a pleasurable one – don’t let the dreadful musac which blares out of every shop and station and cafe drown you out. Add your voice to the millions around the world who let singing be their celebration of life, and their release for everyday emotion, and a catharsis for those times of crises.I don’t know where you live but if you are in the North of England you are very welcome to join one of my classes at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal or my harmony singing group in Sedbergh.
I also run weekend groups for people like yourself who want to free their voices.Breathing for SingersIn Kristin Linklater’s book, Freeing the Natural Voice there is a chapter called “Breathing – the source of sound”.
In it she says: “the involuntary nervous system does it best”. The main controls of the breath are thoughts and feelings – so she says that instead of sending active messages to yourself such as ‘breathe in’ and ‘breathe out’ you should send passive messages such as ‘allow the breath to replace’ and ‘let the breath release’ and ‘let the breath drop in’.
She’s big on physical relaxation and awareness and exploring the spine and developing the ability to observe the breath without controlling it.Patsy Rodenburg in The Right to Speak also writes about breath and the voice. In her section on breathing exercises she lists five principles of breath for voice work:
To place the breath, and allow it to find its natural position.
To open the entire ribcage around the centre of the body – and especially the back.
To allow the diaphragm to move freely up and down, creating a release of muscles above the waist and into the abdommen.
To activiate all the muscles that support the outward breath.
To build breath capacity.
Finally the Cumbrian dancer and Alexander teacher Miranda Tufnell says “The breath is the means by which the inside of the body knows the outside”. Her book Body Space Image is full of similar gems and good pictures too.
Join a Choir
Many community choirs around the country do not stop people who have never sung before from joining and this could be a good way for you to try out your voice. Singing alongside someone who is more confident can be a great help – like the way some toddlers learn to walk by being held by a parent until they can do it themselves.
To find one near you visit the Natural Voice Practitioners’ Network www.naturalvoice.net and click on choirs.
Until then can I please encourage you to sing as much as you can – on the hills, on your bike, in your car, on the bus, in bed, making food, in places where there is echo (like corridors and caves – our voice group loves the Rydal Caves in the Lake District) or where your voice adds the best of what is human to the nature around us.
Contact details for Lakeland Voice
David BurbidgeSmithy CottageFarfieldSedberghCumbriaLA10 5LWTelephone: 015396 21166Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Who are the Guest Tutors?
Our tutors share a common philosophy of inclusivity although their approach and style of music may vary.
Frankie Armstrong is well known as one of the pioneers of natural voice work, as well as being a gifted and accomplished performer of folk song especially the ballads – “The urgency and intensity of her oft-unaccompanied singing cuts through the centuries, and holds her audiences spellbound” (Ethel Raim).
Helen Chadwick’s voice “revels in subtle contradictions – rich with colour and vibrancy, and dark with the mystery of a profound source within her” (Sedbergh Lookaround). Helen has a special interest in Georgian polyphony, has created arrangements for poems by writers such as Rumi and Goethe, and teaches voice and choir at the National Theatre.
Dessi Stefanova was born in Bulgaria and sang and conducted with the Philip Koutev state folk and dance ensemble before moving to England. She leads several Bulgarian and Balkan choirs in this country and is loved by her singers for her humour, her inspiration and – like the music she teaches – her sheer vitality. She says: “Bulgarian harmony singing gives voice to the heart and power to the voice”.
Paul Guppy has become one of the country’s leading exponents of West Gallery music – the music and singing of country churches in the 18th and early 19th centuries as sung by the Mellstock quire in Thomas Hardy’s, Under the Greenwood Tree. He leads the highly esteemed Lancaster based West Gallery choir, The Gladly Solemn Sound, and has set arrangements in this style to several poems and epitaphs. He makes and repairs musical instruments, plays in jazz and folk ensembles and has taught at many folk festivals and singing conventions. He is renowned for his skill as a musician, his focus as a collector, and for being an entertaining and informative teacher.
Village Harmony and Northern Harmony
Village Harmony are a youth choir from Vermont, USA, who gave a workshop and concert in Sedbergh and Dent in 2000. They specialise in Shape Note music (which derives from English West Gallery music – it uses shapes in the written music and is sung with great gusto ) and Balkan music under the tutilage of Mary Kay Brass and Val Mindel.
The adult version of this choir, Northern Harmony, are due on February 28th and 29th 2004 with their director Larry Gordan. The workshops are lively and even inexperienced singers find they can sing complex music with confidence.
Coope, Boyes and Simpson
Coope, Boyes and Simpson are well known as some of Britain’s leading folk harmony singers. They were the lead singers, teachers and inspiration behind the Christmas Truce 1914 sell-out concert in Dent in 2002, singing alongside 80 singers drawn from community choirs in the region and conducted by Janet Russel.
The Australian political choir Solidarity came to Sedbergh at the start of the millenium and taught us songs from their repertoire including Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrica (the South African national anthem) and I Feel Like Going On.
Igor is the music teacher at the Ljubljana Waldorf School in Slovenia and has been to meet our singers here on several occasions. He has also been on tours with his choirs organised by us which included the Lake District and Scotland. He has a great sense of humour and fun and a love of wild places and mountains. The song he taught our choir on his last visit – Planinska – about the joys of being in the mountains is much loved by our singers.