Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Voice’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ A new note

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

My new venture is singing lessons. It’s going well. My singing teacher, Bianca, is tall, Australian, young, good-looking and full of spirit. At least half of every lesson so far has concentrated on the production of voice, diaphragm and larynx, position of head and tongue, the focusing of sound and other such matters.

How strange, I’ve been thinking, that as someone who has worked as a storyteller for three decades – or is it four? – I have never had voice lessons before. A number of voice workshops, perhaps, but not anything continued and concentrated. In my work, I suppose I felt confident that my voice could reach the back of pretty much any audience. I remember being asked to tell a story to 800 pupils in a black school in South Africa. The 800 pupils were seated outside (always more difficult and certainly not very personal) but it went off OK. Big halls at such events as Festival at the Edge also seem to have gone alright. Awful acoustics, surrounding noise: all kinds of obstacles have occurred and there’s been the occasional failure. For instance, I remember one person coming to me after a story I’d told to a crowd of other storytellers standing around me at some festival or other. She was bothered. She hadn’t heard the last word of the story. That felt unforgiveably awful! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Such different things

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Two such different items for this week’s blog. One refers to an interview I did for Early Years TV. The other is about an important friend who died last Saturday and some of the reasons why the loss of him is so hard.

The interview:

The interview was with Kathy Brodie who runs Early Years TV. It happened earlier this year after my book, Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years, was published. I’ve always found it incredibly hard to look at myself on screen on any of the occasions when such a possibility has come up. But if you’d like to see the interview, what you can do is search here and from the interview options that come up, select the one with me.

The singer and friend:

Kenneth Bowen had a wonderful high tenor voice and also a great sense of humour. In his world-renowned career as a singer, he collected infinite numbers of stories of other singers, conductors and special occasions which it was always a treat to hear. But there were so many other things about him that make losing him feel so sad.

One of those is the personal connection which explains how Paul and I came to know him. Kenneth had strong connections with Fishguard, the small Pembrokeshire town where I was born. He was born in Llanelli but spent many summers in Fishguard with aunts and grandparents and his mother is buried there. So he’d go back there to visit from time to time. On one such occasion he went to see my redoubtable Aunty Mali not only because he knew her but because she was wanting to sell a piano which, in fact, Kenneth then bought for his son, now the organist of Hereford Cathedral. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Stars

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

How fantastic it can be to see stars whether in the night sky or on stage. Stars in the sky are a thrill: as you look, they seem to call you up to the sky to join them. On stage, stars give out a similarly thrilling kind of brightness. This week, I saw and heard some very special ones at the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, the Welsh National Eisteddfod in Cardiff. What was especially exciting about the particular three I’m thinking about right now is that they were all under 21 years old.

Eisteddfod is an interesting word. Eistedd in Welsh means sit or sitting. Bod (mutated here to fod) means being. So, to me, the word eisteddfod immediately summons up the sense of people sitting together, being together. It brings with it a strong feeling of community and also a big sense of expectation. What is going to happen? (more…)

Storytelling starters ~ We are painters

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Fascinating how what is true in one art form can have such meaning for another! On Wednesday, we went to the Wigmore Hall in central London to be in the audience for a Masterclass given by Thomas Quasthoff with four young baritone singers.

Quasthoff is a bass baritone of extraordinary eminence, all the more extraordinary because he was born with such severe birth defects as to make him under 5 feet tall. Also his arms are severely foreshortened. These defects result from the fact that when his mother was pregnant with him, she was prescribed thalidomide, the drug which was afterwards realised to have such horrendous effects. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Further thoughts on reading

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Last week’s  theme on reading continued popping up this week and in several different ways.  First came a comment on last week’s blog from storyteller Janet Dowling in which she said she often gets asked to do readings. And it seems the reason people ask her is because she’s a storyteller. When you come to think about it, perhaps that’s not surprising. Bill yourself as a storyteller and people can be fairly confident about several important points. First is that you’re used to speaking to an audience. Second is that you probably have a voice that is used to speaking with expression. Not everyone who gets to read aloud has that!

Second this week, I noticed a contribution on reading in the regular blog put out by the London Review of Books (a fortnightly journal of which I’m an avid reader). The blog piece from Gill Hartington was evidently prompted by a visit she made to The Hague’s Museum Meermanno, ‘the House of the Book’. In the museum was an exhibition which makes use of screens, moving images, sound and all kinds of other data to explore and examine the act of reading. According to Gill Partington, The Art of Reading: From William Kentridge to Wikipedia is not so much an exhibition of contemporary book artists as an attempt to use their work to ask what reading is. ‘What does it mean to see written marks and transform them into meaning, or into speech? Does reading take place in the mind, the eye, the body, or in the digital devices on which we increasingly rely?’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Questions of voice

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

It’s a good point to make: reading aloud well is a pleasurable art. And the point was made, and made well, in a recent blog comment from Meg in Australia. She added: ‘Making readers more aware of their voice and range of options, like those of an oral storyteller, has got to help young listeners understand and feel what it is to read “with expression.”’

So what is it about speaking aloud to others that freezes so many people? I’ve been thinking about the question a lot – and especially in relation to the book on storytelling and story-reading with early years children that I’ve just finished writing. The book is about helping people with both storytelling and story-reading. Inevitably one of the frequent problems it had to confront was that fear of using their voice that many people have. In the case of storytelling, it can be a fear people have of forgetting, a fear of being themselves, a fear of performance. In the case of story-reading, perhaps it’s also a failure to realise that, even when you’re putting across a story in a book, you have to put yourself into it.

I think I was lucky:

Maybe one of the basic problems is when people are not inculcated into the joys and pleasures of voice when they’re children. I think I was lucky. Growing up in Wales, we did a lot of singing and  part of the expectation was that we’d enjoy it. Growing up in Wales, we also recited. Poems, verses from the bible, speeches we’d put together, votes of thanks – speaking aloud was part of our school and social experience. A lot of it was competitive. It had to be because there were so many of those competitive occasions called eisteddfodau not only at school or in chapel but in the youth organisation called the Urdd. (more…)