I first heard about the work of SoundVoice at an on line Wigmore Hall lockdown concert with soprano Gwyneth Anne Rand and pianist Simon Lepper. They were performing Messaien’s magnetic Harawi and at the end Gwyneth said she wanted to add a short piece with Sara Bowden Evans; Sara had lost her voice to throat cancer. The piece they sang was ‘Can you hear my voice?’ (which you can listen to here) created by composer Hannah Conway and recorded for SoundVoice.
The five minute piece has Gwyneth singing Sara’s poem to Hannah’s score with spoken interpolations from Sara. It one of a series of mini operatic scores designed to be sung by professional singers and those who have lost, or partially lost, their voices, to cancer, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s or any other condition which impacts the voice.
The concept has sprung from an amazing and unique collaboration between ‘people with lived experience of voice loss’ and researchers, technologists, medical professionals and artists – composers, performers, singers and film makers. The aim is to investigate what voice loss actually means to those who are losing their voices and to explore how these disciplines could work creatively together in that area.
As of now you can listen to three pieces on the SoundVoice website along with films about their making: Sara’s Can you hear my voice?; ‘Paul’, an aria in which baritone Roderick Williams and Paul Jameson, who has lost most of the ability to speak to motor neurone disease perform together to Hannah Conway’s score, and ‘The Willow Tree’, also by Hannah Conway. In this countertenor Iestyn Davies impersonates the Willow Tree, an ancient spirit who steals the voices of the other singers, a professional bass and two Parkinon’s sufferers who have already lost much of their vocal capacity. Several more pieces are in preparation.
This seems to me to be such a wonderfully imaginative and creative project – and the work that they are producing is so beautiful, moving and uplifting – that I want everyone to know about it! Hence this post. For me, having just been to the funeral of a long standing colleague who had lost her voice to motor neurone disease, their work has especial poignancy.
- If you want to know more about SoundVoice, check in to their website and listen to what those involved in the project have to say about it.
- You might also want to check in to the Sing for Joy website, one of SoundVoice’s partners. They run seated choirs for people with conditions such as Parkinson’s and MS.
- And how about Shout out for Cancer ‘world’s only charity specialised in speech training with music after laryngectomy, the surgical removal of the voice box, following throat cancer’.
- Or Streetwise Opera, another of Hannah Conway’s projects that uses singing and creativity to inspire and empower people recovering from homelessness.