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Jole Berlage-Buccellati’s book Sing from Your Core aims to encourage and inspire singers of all abilities. Drawing from her diverse background in Biology, Anthropology, Dance, Martial Arts, Music and Music Therapy, the author persuasively postulates an alternative multidisciplinary perspective on the art of singing, compared with more function-focused methodologies. Crediting internationally renowned Finnish bass-baritone Tom Krause (1934-2013) as inspiration and influence, she takes on the mantle by weaving his insight and philosophy into the fabric of the book.

As expected from the title, Sing from Your Core makes reference to the corresponding musculature required for singing. However, it delves deeper by integrating the singer’s core being to source this power. A symbiosis of psyche and body is accessed through mindfulness, kinesthetic awareness, imagination, reflection and most crucially by surrendering. Trusting the innate wisdom of the ‘vocal body’ is key. Buoyed by emotional intention and imbued with a sense of joy, the voice manifests itself. Never is it willed. Individual blocks and defence-mechanisms in this process are viewed as vital opportunities for learning and personal growth, rather than as problems to be fixed.

If you’re looking for conventional instruction and answers to vocal technique, you may find this book frustrating. Instead, it offers readers a journey of self- enquiry that sits in the realm of stillness and curiosity: a place where negative judgment is suspended so that possibilities of vocal quality and artistic choice can be explored with freedom and ease. All aspects of the mind, body and voice mechanism are sensed simultaneously, not in isolation. While it shares the same goals as most singing ideologies, it advocates a shift of mindset and terminology as a way in.

At first glance, Berlage-Buccellati may seem to brush over the technical aspects of singing. However, all the usual topics are addressed comprehensibly and in considerable detail with accompanying diagrams. She substantiates her belief-system by promoting the relevance of right-brain function and Open Focus Attention for singing. She effectively explains the role of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system in relation to performance anxiety, and how to overcome it. Each chapter is interspersed with a range of experiential exercises, all of which are followed by question-led ‘contemplations’.

Sing from Your Core will appeal to singers of all abilities, especially those who feel confined by technical left-brain thinking, and want to explore their creative potential. Likewise, it presents a toolbox for tutors, workshop leaders, vocal coaches and directors who want to expand the singer’s expressive potential.

In fact, given the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over their future, arguably the time is ripe for singers to be open to a fresh approach to learning their craft. One that makes space for some serious soul-searching, knowing that they will need to sustain a sense of purpose, resilience and indeed personal power like never before, in order to survive the current hiatus.

Morag McLaren Read the full review on Agora Classica

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