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Well-tuned Women: Growing Strong Through Voicework

Women's Press


Review by: Liz McNaughton

In this book fifteen women write with a single theme: a passionate belief in the power of voice whether it be spoken or sung. The editors, folk singer and voice trainer Frankie Armstrong and writer, therapist and storyteller Jenny Pearson, have brought together an impressive group of women from around the world, all involved with voice through teaching, performing and healing.

I wondered how the contributions were laced together. In fact whether the essays are read at random or sequentially there is a powerful flow and energy about the way they fit as a whole. Autobiographical notes tell us more about the authors but each has written about her background and what brought her into the voicework arena: in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, war zones, in the community, as self-defence, in psycho-therapy, in business.

As the editors say they feared too much repetition and overlap but there was none except the central issue of women who had found themselves 'silenced' being helped to find their natural voice and in so doing finding themselves and their expressivity.

The main message is that of bringing the voice home and there are frequent references to the soul. If anyone ever had doubts that voicework is about more than 'just teaching' people to say lines or sing a song, this is the book to persuade us of the importance to human beings in terms of self-esteem and confidence of being able to express ourselves freely with our voices.

As Ysaye Barnwell writes 'the emergence of one's voice is much more than the linear process of learning vocal technique'. It is 'a process of giving birth to one's soul'. Julie McNamara says 'we each need to find our own ingredients for the 'song that calls the soul back home'.'

This is a book to do away with the distinctions between singers and non-singers and to celebrate women's voices however they may be. You will not find a great deal about the trained classical voice here but you will find a great deal about the freedom and power of the human spirit to express itself truly when the voice is free.

My only reservation is that this should not be limited to women however strong the historical evidence of social conditioning and repression, and that there is scope for at least two more titles on this theme namely 'well-tuned men' and 'well-tuned men and women'. Whether these also have to be written by women with such strong commitment to the voice's capacity to empower the individual remains to be seen, but if we are to achieve the balance and harmony that this book shows us is possible, we need to get on with the work immediately and spread the word.

I strongly recommend this book as an inspiration to us all to remind us of the importance of the responsibility and the potential for joy, strength and personal growth that we have entrusted to us in all voice-work.



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