Tutor/director Richard Spaul talks about in situ:’s upcoming course, Voice is the Muscle of the Soul.
Sue Quilliam: Richard, the title of this course is intriguing. What does it mean?
RS: It’s a quote from Alfred Wolfsohn, a pioneer in Voice Exploration. He felt that the voice was the main ‘soul’, or expresser of human character and feeling; it’s a ‘muscle’ in that you can work with it, train it, use it to power expression. Wolfsohn himself had a traumatic experience in World War 1 when he was haunted by the screams of a dying comrade. He ‘cured’ himself by working on his voice and then went on to work with others both therapeutically and artistically.
SQ: Why are you motivated to run a course on voice?
RS: Like Wolfsohn, I believe that the voice – its range, it expressiveness, its reflection of the individual – is a wonderful artistic tool. So from an acting and performance viewpoint, it’s crucial to develop and enhance voice. Plus, although I am absolutely not a therapist of any kind, I do believe that voice work can be of immense personal benefit.
SQ: What’s your own journey in learning about voice?
RS: I’ve worked a lot with members of the Roy Hart Theatre – Hart was a pupil of Wolfsohn. Until then, I’d thought of the voice as an instrument for speaking – but then discovered that it can ‘sound’ in all sort of ways. I’ve incorporated that realisation into my own work as an actor, and have actually been inspired to study singing as a result. It’s a very exciting, ongoing journey.
SQ: Coming back to the course, who is it for?
RS: I hope it will appeal to anyone doing performance of any kind – singers, storytellers, actors, teachers, facilitators. But the course is also for anybody who would like to get more out of their voice.. not just in art but in life!
SQ: What will participants actually do?
There’ll be a mixture of group exercises and improvisation, some physicality and imagination. The group will be small so there’ll be a strong accent on individual work, and plenty of space for us to look at individual wishes and problems.
SQ: Some people can be quite anxious about using their voice, ‘speaking properly’ or ‘performing’. I know from working with you that you’re expert at creating a relaxed, no-pressure space – so I’m guessing people shouldn’t be nervous.
RS: Absolutely no reason for nervousness! This isn’t about ‘diction’ or ‘speaking up’ – heaven forbid! And the only audience for our work will be the other participants. Plus, though there’ll certainly be scope for individuals to explore their singing voice, you don’t have sing; I prefer to think in terms of ‘sounding’ which is a much more wide-ranging and less technical skill.
SQ: What are you most looking forward to about the course? And what do you want participants to look forward to?
RS: I learn something new every time I teach – it’s an inexhaustible subject – and previous participants have always loved discovering that there’s far more in their voices than they ever knew. I’m looking forward to helping people on the January course make exactly the same discoveries!
The Voice is the Muscle of the Soul
Dates: Monday January 16 – Monday March 27 (exc. Monday February 13)
Times: 8pm – 10pm
Venue: St Andrews’ Hall, Chesterton