As part of the membership package when you join City Sirens, our membership is entitled to one free singing lesson with our chief Musical Director, Tom Colwell. Jessica, an Alto was one of the first members to take up this offer. We asked her to tell us what she experienced and gained from having a one-to-one with Tom.
“Having grown up singing in eisteddfodau, I’m used to singing in front of people. It does give me butterflies sometimes, but I don’t tend to experience any feelings of terror. However, singing in front of a professional and potentially being told I’d been doing it wrong all these years was going to be an interesting experience!
The first thing Tom asked me to do in the lesson was to sing something for him to showcase my voice. I chose to sing Calon Lân, a traditional Welsh song that I’ve known since childhood. I belted it out, starting on an appropriately low note (I am an alto after all!), and gave it my all.
One of the things Tom spotted was that I was using my jaw and throat quite a lot to generate the loud alto sounds I’m used to emitting. Apparently, there shouldn’t be any tension here when you’re singing, so a lot of the exercises we did revolved around trying to get me to sing using my stomach muscles to create the sound, and taking the remaining tension out of the throat and jaw by using my facial muscles to help.
I also told Tom that I have trouble singing quietly, something it is essential we are able to do in choir. Tom got me doing some exercises to practise proper breathing, and looking in the mirror to practise correct posture (those few years of ballet lessons came in quite handy). After practising the various exercises, the most revealing activity that Tom asked me to do was to sing up and down in fifths, going up by one note of the scale each time: I made it all the way up to a top G which was a revelation for a confirmed alto!
By the end of the lesson, I felt so much better about my singing: I felt physically more relaxed, in the whole of my body and particularly in my face and jaw; I’d discovered that my range was quite a bit bigger than I’d always believed; I didn’t feel any pain in my vocal chords anymore from trying to hit certain notes; and all the techniques I’d learnt, I’d be able to apply to my singing in choir. I now use them every single week when we sing, and can’t wait for my voice to continue to develop and get stronger.”
Tom has a few spaces each week in his busy teaching schedule. If you would be interested in having a singing lesson with Tom, you can find out more at singinglessonscardiff.com.