When Songs Speak to You…….

Bless me blog father it has been 6 months since my last post

There are VERY good reasons for this….I've been through some major life and work changes since last posting and my focus needed to be very much in the moment.

So….it's time to reconnect with my lovely "it's all about the voice" project…

Here's what inspired me to write

I’ve just been watching an amazing performance of Coldplay on Radio 1’s Big Weekend coverage. I talked myself into not loving Coldplay about 9 years ago when a very painful relationship end shaped my associations with lots of my favourite music, including this song.

I tweeted a message out regarding this and one of my dear friends happened to catch the tweet – tiny coincidence I think not- serendipity is always magical. Here’s how the convo went ….




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I'm a Singer

I'm a Musician

I'm a Songwriter

Music is sacred to me….it truly cuts/touches/resonates deeply with me, like a lot of us! Sometimes too deeply. And it's interesting when you spend your life helping others to connect either with themselves or music and their voice, sometimes you forget to reconnect with your own.

And then sometimes you might reach out and express it…. And someone who loves and supports you will remind you who you are and where you've been….and that moment half an hour ago spoke hugely to me because it was conducted through a shared resonance with a song and it's poetry!

And then this…..

So, here I am……reconnecting. I love the feeling of having the space to be creative…..I need the space for creation when it's truly meaningful to me. I create every day in my business Sing & Inspire, but it’s not the same as my soul creation. My raw vulnerability on show. My song lyrics, my writing, my art……..my true voice!

I am quite wonderfully and unexpectedly proud to say that I’m now a Huffington Post Blogger…… Which I’m outrageously humbled and grateful for…this is linked to my recent story. I could update you on what’s been going on for me but that’s another post….which I’ll do this week. I promise. Let’s just say there have been HUGE shifts and the universe is powerful.

I’d love to hear about your heart, love, hurt, teenage, sad, crush, beauty, life association remembrance songs that have epitomised moments in your lives..I’m looking forward to reading your comments, please do be brave enough to share them…I’m interested to connect with you and your stories!

It really is all about the voice 🙂

Thanks for reading and staying with me while I’ve been on my little break- I do value you as a follower! Until next week.





The footprints we leave!







Happy Saturday folks…

its a stormy windy day here in Cardiff, Wales. The winter has arrived and along with it new colds and snuffles and sore throats – the great thing about this season which I L-O-V-E is singing Christmas songs and carols – such a softy at heart. My favourite film of the season is always and undoubtedly “It’s a wonderful life” and days like these make me want to light the fire and cosy up with hot chocolate and watch this film. But……..its story time again so here I am at the kitchen table reminiscing over some of the fantastic people I’ve come across over the passed few decades.

Up until now the stories I’ve been posting have been concentrated around the singers we have with my fabulous company Sing & Inspire. We’ve heard a handful of incredibly meaningful and inspiring testimonials mainly from seldom or non singers and how engaging with their voices, singing together (and alone) and experiencing shared experience and success with their singing has helped them in their lives.

For nearly 20 years now part of my voice journey is that I’ve been teaching singing and coaching voice (two different things in my opinion) and for the past 13 years I’ve been a Music Industry Voice Coach. My method of coaching through the voice can be intrusive and certainly transformational for many of my clients. I think that a lot of the coaching initially was purely instinctive (and to some degree still very much is) and as my experience grew I simply picked up common themes of people and what their needs, core desires and fears often are. I was able to gently probe people to ask themselves questions and work through these core emotions that would then aid them to unlocking their voices and subsequent dreams. For the best part of a decade my clientele moved into one where I generally only taught singers or actors who were serious about their voices and wanted to ‘make money’ out of their talent. I spent years with countless rock, punk, folk, electronica, indie, jazz, musical theatre, circuit and every other type of singer, musical theatre performers, dancers, actors and singer songwriters all at different stages in their journeys. Some of which continued to be successful as singers and performers which passions burning brightly and clear pathways to their measures of success…..there were also some who could have pursued their voice careers but after their tuition found different paths. What strikes me about this weeks story is that I didn’t realise the extent that my coaching chapters had with some of these people.

The next bunch of stories that will be published on this blog are from people who I have taught and coached, Many of them from years ago. Because of this, there is specific reference (and praise and accolade) to me personally which I was uncomfortable about publishing but I just thought – hey, I’ve published the other stories raw, I need to afford the same authenticity to these too. So, there’s some humbling comments about me which I’m emotionally grateful for and I ask you as readers not to put too much store in. I’m working on my own journey of acceptance and understand this is time for me to shine also……so bear with me. I do want to stress however, that I’m not publishing these stories to be about me, they are about the writers and their perception and feelings surrounding how their voice journeys impacted their lives. Interestingly a lot of these people I met when they were very young. Some of them were children or teenagers and are now adults. Having a darling (!) teenage son myself 🙂 I know just how impressionable and important these years are so I shouldn’t really be amazed at the footprints that my lessons and I have had in these people’s lives……but nonetheless I am, hence the title of todays post. We leave footprints on peoples lives, energetically, emotionally and intellectually – especially as a teacher, coach, parent – you get the picture. So remember that my lovelies. You will likely have impact on someone you spend time with, it takes some consideration on your part to make sure that impact is a good and healthy one that leaves a legacy.

The story today comes from a lovely auburn haired Irish man called Andy, who I started teaching when he was around 19 years old. He was a student at Cardiff University and had a passion for the Goo Goo Dolls and girls. He’s a fantastic young man who now owns a really cool organisation called Challenge 12 which is a fundraising organisation for charities. Here are the links if you’d like to get involved and follow



When I approached him about possibly featuring his story on here his response blew me away – he said: “Of course I will, your singing lessons changed my life”. I didn’t realise the footprint I had left with Andy had impacted him so much until I read his story.

Here it is…..

I still remember sitting in Andrew Beardshaw’s (in the days before the roguish Matt Callanan swept her off her feet) living room for the first time absolutely petrified of the idea that I had to sing in front of another living human being. It was the summer just before I started my second year at Cardiff University. My first year had been a lovely experience but I was a quiet and pretty shy young man and never really had put myself into a situation where I left my comfort zone. I had been lucky enough to meet a group of great friends who all took the time to get past “shy Andy” (from hence forth known as ShAndy) and we started a band. It was loads of fun and we mainly played covers of Feeder and Goo Goo Dolls (which they hated but was like crack to me). So despite my ShAndy-ness I did have some delusions of rock stardom and would sit for hours boring my friend Paul about what it was going to be like being famous (bless him for putting up with that). Despite said delusions I was a mediocre guitar player at best and had never really sung in public so decided to try and get a few singing lessons. I do remember organising one teacher in first year but chickened out because I was worried what he would say.

So what changed between that chickening out and coming to sit in Andii’s living room? What ripped me from my comfort zone and pushed me in a situation where I could potential humiliate myself? Well what normally does to a young man? A girl.

Unfortunately this isn’t the tale of trying to impress a girl but the heartbreak of having been dumped by one. It made me branch out and try new things and met new people. And that’s how I ended up in Andii’s living room, with her young son Cole running around.

So the time came to sing and I still remember being terrified. Thankfully Andii let me sing with my guitar and so I attempted to belt out “Side” by Travis. So after a minute or two of caterwauling I opened my eyes, which of course had been closed so I could avoid any potential smirking, and Andii was smiling at me and started breaking down the pro’s and con’s. To this day I remember the elation I felt when she said she liked my voice. Now I don’t know whether this was true or not but for an awkward and shy 19 year old it was one of the most encouraging things that could have been said.

Over the next 4 or 5 years I continued on and off with singing lessons (normally based on whether I had time or money) and I can see now that it was more than just singing, it was a confidence builder and a way of working through emotional problems. I would go and just sing and I felt more in control of my life and problems. There were times that I would go even if I had a sore throat and just talk through emotional issues with Andii because it was all connected. Some songs I could sing because I could tap into the emotion connected but yet conversely I would struggle and back away from notes cause I didn’t believe in myself. Andii became much much more than a singing teacher but became a taller and much more attractive Yoda, helping me understand a lot of the feelings that overwhelmed me. Singing taught me a great deal about who I was as a person and built me into the man I am today.

Some people sing and have wonderful voices and a talent for showmanship; the Buble’s, the Sinatra’s, etc but singing doesn’t have to be about getting on a stage and selling tickets. As with any art form its about exploring and very nature of who you are and everything I learnt about who I was and am and continue to grow to become started in singing lessons. It was the lessons I had every Tuesday at 14.00 with Andii that taught me to be comfortable with who I was and the ridiculous nature of me. When I started off my own project, Challenge12, people told me the impossibilities of what I wanted to do but what I learnt singing taught me that often it isn’t about succeeding but about being true to yourself and trying to do things that are different. Confidence is a tricky thing: hard to build up and easily broken but the difference between 30 year old and 20 year old me is that I look inwards now for confidence rather than outwards at the people around me.

Interestingly enough, nowadays I don’t sing except while cooking in the kitchen (much to my flatmates chagrin) but I still can see the lessons I’ve learnt in my ever day life. In 2012, I started a charity project in which I take on a monthly challenge to raise money for charity. Some of the challenges over the last 20 months have pushed me physically and emotionally to the limit but the framework I learnt while singing still supports me.

I can never thank Andii enough for all that she has given me

In usual all about the voice blog fashion, here’s a picture of 30 year old Andy so you can relate to his story even more, and please do visit his website and Facebook and join in his mission to better peoples lives through his challenges.


I have a few #voicequotes which I think fit today’s story….I think the one I’ve used to open and end todays post are fitting .

If you want to see/experience/resonate with more of my #voicequotes and #voicetips you can visit my page on my pinterest here:


Look out for my voice manifesto coming soon 🙂



What did you experience when you were younger that changed your confidence?

Until next week folks – enjoy your bonfire night folks – and remember to wrap up warm 🙂



And x


Voice journeys – how our voice esteem affects our self esteem!

car singing

Happy Wednesday lovely people – its story time again!

Todays story is really wonderful. It’s from someone I’ve known from the very first pilot choir we set up with Sing & Inspire and it’s just so amazing to see how this lovely woman has progressed in confidence (and ability) since I first met her.

Jayne, (or Sammi-Jayne as lots of folk know her on line) is an amazing single mum to her son Rowan who has just started high school. She and I both shared single parentdom for some while before I remarried and I know just how hard it is to keep all the plates spinning.  Jayne is one of the most diligent people I know.  Jayne manages to juggle working for the Admiral insurance group, works on her open university degree, looks after her son single handedly, cares for two cats and still finds time to be in two of our choirs, is a great section leader in her business Inspire choir, makes a point of always learning harmonies and lyrics and is also a great baker of cakes!

Jayne also suffers from a stammer………… which she’s actually had a middle page spread in the local newspaper following the success of the film ‘The Kings Speech’

You can read the article here  http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health/when-speech-is-a-struggle-1853637

Although the picture I’ve painted of Jayne above is that she does an amazing impression of superwoman I wouldn’t be  describing Jayne accurately, If I hadn’t mentioned her stammer. Its so interesting how our voice and our voice characteristics define us as people – primarily because they are unique to us, and therefore special. I really love how Jayne talks about her voice in her story – she’s got a wonderful way with words and she’s so down to earth. Jayne and I have talked over the years about confidence and how that impacts on how we produce sound and specifically when it comes to speech impediments, I think that Jayne is so accurate in expressing how it feels to have people ‘try’ and ‘help’ when they actually can’t and is remiss for them to presume they can. I’ve experienced Jayne talking about something she’s really passionate about clearly and stammer free, and I also know she’s a fab singer and again is stammer free…..there’s something to be learnt from our mind and heart process to our voice process, which as a voice expert I’m absolutely fascinated by. Perhaps I’ll ask Jayne if she wants to help me research part of my other book ‘Unlocking the Voice’  (working title)

So now you know a bit more about Jayne…….

and her voice……………

so here’s her story

I have something of a love/hate relationship with my voice.

I’ve had a speech impediment for the vast majority of my life. No-one knows what, if anything, triggered it (though my late grandfather had a theory, which my parents didn’t agree with) and the family doctor believed I would grow out of it. Because of this ‘expert opinion’, I didn’t get any speech therapy until I was sixteen, by which time I had quite deep-seated emotional issues tied in with my difficulty speaking. Teasing from other kids, and even ‘advice’ from well-meaning adults, can do an awful lot of damage to a person’s self-esteem. Even now I find myself having to almost justify my speech difficulty to other people, sometimes with rather humiliating consequences; just recently I burst into tears during an important meeting, when somebody thought it would be helpful to offer empathy regarding my stammer, thinking it would ‘help’ me to calm down and talk more fluently.

I think the reason why I love to sing so much is because it’s one of the few times I don’t have to battle with my stammer (I frequently quip that I’m a less-talented Gareth Gates…). The same is also true when I’m attempting to speak a different language, and to a lesser extent when I’m reading something aloud (though I do still trip over my tongue a little). I guess this might be because I’m using the language centre of my brain differently in these scenarios, whereas normal speech is a lot more of an unconscious thing. Having said that, putting greater conscious effort into speaking – and in theory trying to act like I’m speaking a foreign language – does not fix the problem. Trust me on this. It’s also exhausting.

So, singing is enjoyable for me because my voice actually does what it’s told. Most of the time, anyway. I’ve been singing probably as long as I’ve been speaking; I grew up singing along to theme songs, commercial jingles, songs on the radio, you name it. If there’s a song playing within hearing distance of me, you can almost guarantee I’ll be singing along. I have a habit – probably very rude, but I have trouble resisting – of singing along to the radio in the car, even while having a conversation. Thankfully the people I tend to get lifts from know me well enough to not take offence. I will also break out into song at random moments, especially when a conversation reminds me of particular lyrics, much to the annoyance of friends and family! I blame that one on Rod, Jane and Freddie from the ‘Rainbow’ children’s tv programme, and their “We know a song about that!” schtick.

I didn’t grow up believing I had any real skill; in junior school I messed around with recording myself on cassette, though my parents were never very positive about the results, and my older sister frequently told me “If you can’t sing, don’t!” This never ultimately stopped me, and I sang in choirs right the way through school, but it made it hard to accept if people gave me compliments. Mind you, positive feedback has always been difficult for me to accept. My online friends have been working on that though, and have gotten me to the point where something like “Did you lose some weight?” gets the cheerful response of “Oh, I wish! But thank you all the same!” rather than a straight denial that leaves both parties at an awkward dead end.

Once I left high school, I didn’t really sing at all – except for personal enjoyment around the house, and that one time I got up the nerve to sign up for karaoke at a staff party – for close to fifteen years. Then one Christmas I heard about a group at work who were meeting up to rehearse carols, with the intention of singing them in the lobby of our office building. I couldn’t resist joining in, despite the fact that Christmas songs are probably some of my least favourite. I did this for a couple of years, and I noticed that my voice started off kind of shaky at the start but got much stronger by the time the season was over. I already knew that the voice was an instrument that needed to be used regularly – evidenced by how much easier it became to read my son a bedtime story the older he got, since even ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ left me with a sore throat at first – and it felt like my voice was withering away from neglect. So when the opportunity arose to join a choir being formed within my workplace, that would rehearse all year round, I absolutely had to sign up.

I’d looked vaguely at choirs in the classified for several years, wanting the opportunity to sing again, but nothing ever caught my eye that wasn’t some significant travelling distance away from home – a factor for me, since I don’t drive. Later on there was the added complication of childcare, so getting to rehearse at the office, during the lunch period, was perfect and I haven’t looked back. I’ve taken the rehearsal schedule into consideration when I’ve needed to adjust my shifts, gone into the office during vacation time, and even continued going into work when I’ve not felt a hundred percent well just to avoid missing practice. My attendance record has been practically perfect for the last couple of years!

Membership in the choir has had a significant impact on my confidence, though that still has a lot of highs and lows. My section does not always enjoy a vast number of members, plus I’m quite short, so I often found myself having to stand in the front row, which is something I do not enjoy. Initially even being there during rehearsals made me anxious! Even now I prefer to be somewhere in the middle of the group, but I think the more comfortable I am with the people around me the easier it is. The company I work for has quite a lot of staff, most of whom you will likely never meet under normal circumstances, so it took a while to get to know my fellow choristers but now we’re a pretty tight knit bunch. I’ve been with a second choir for just over a year now – not directly connected to my workplace, but there are several of us in both choirs – and this has given me the opportunity to meet even more new people who also share my love of singing. It’s a much bigger choir than the one at work, and there’s often new members; I try to do my best to be friendly to everyone I come into direct contact with, and help anyone struggling with the harmonies, but I feel a lot more like a small fish in a big pond there. This has a knock-on effect on my confidence, and I find myself fading to the back row a lot. However, I know that if I need to be in the front for a performance I can do it – I just don’t like subjecting anyone to my pathetic attempts at movement!

I remember bursting into tears during a rehearsal at work, about two years in, because I just could not get that phrase right and Andrea was right in front of me paying attention! I was so embarrassed, she had to take me outside for a momentary pep talk. Fast forward to a few years later, and I’m one of just five volunteers in a tiny recording booth, participating in a project for work and trying to learn two parts of an original, custom-written song on the fly – and not freaking out when I get it wrong! I’d found enough confidence in my abilities to think to myself “You know what? You only heard this for the first time ten minutes ago, and there’s not enough headphones for all of us. Just do your best!” The finished product was pretty good, even if I do say so myself!

I’m not sure how, but I somehow managed to build a reputation amongst my fellow choristers as the one to listen to when learning the harmonies. I do have a habit of practising my lines pretty thoroughly; probably because singing is something of an obsession for me, and a new song provides me with fresh focus for that obsession. Maybe I take it a little more seriously than is required, but knowing my part with confidence – and therefore being a useful member of the team – is a matter of pride. I don’t beat myself up anymore if it takes a couple of weeks before I get the hang of a song in rehearsals, since it’s a very different learning environment in comparison to listening to MP3s in your kitchen, but I do aim to get it right and be lyric sheet free as soon as possible.

Practising so regularly has had a positive impact on my voice, and it has gotten much stronger over the years, but I still feel I have so much more to learn and improve on. I made up my mind that I wanted proper vocal training, and found an online vocal coach through his free lessons on YouTube. After a while I signed up for some of his proper vocal training, which he delivers through video files and MP3s; lessons on breathing techniques, exercises to strengthen the range, and a selection of vocal warm-ups. I love what he produces, and his teaching style is very accessible. He is also twice as likely as I am to break into song at random! I must have used my playlist of his warm-ups almost every day for a year or two – especially when a performance was coming up – but ultimately I don’t tend to do all that well with self-learning courses. I managed to save up for one of his one-on-one lessons over Skype in 2011, and I was stunned by how much better he got me to sound during that hour, convincing me that I needed actual, traditional singing lessons. It’s taken me a while, but I have now gotten up the nerve to approach a local vocal coach and she’s been working with me every few weeks for the last few months. The first few sessions of my lessons were exclusively vocal exercises, designed to fix the issues and improve my voice as a whole. The first time I had to actually sing, though, was a very weird experience; it wasn’t my best performance, as I was getting the words a little mangled, I was singing along with a different arrangement than the one I regularly practise with, and I think nerves were obvious. About halfway through the song, I got all emotional and started crying – and I didn’t even understand why! I wasn’t particularly upset about anything, as far as I knew. My coach was fine with it – I don’t think it’s anything especially unusual in her line of work. I think perhaps part of it was the fact that I haven’t really sung a solo for anyone – other than karaoke with my colleagues, and that doesn’t count – since I was a child. Even my one ‘spotlight’ moment in choir years ago was a duet, and we only performed it once before that part got cut from the song. Singing alone for someone who is specifically there to provide feedback makes you vulnerable in a way I usually try to avoid. It’s still early days, but I have seen a difference in the way I approach singing as well as the sound I produce; I need to work on my breath control – my coach refers to my breathing as a ‘tsunami of air’! – and lowering my larynx so that my sound is less nasal, but we’re getting there!

Joining the choir at work was the first step of an ongoing journey, that I will never, ever regret. I’ve gotten to know wonderful people, performed at a wide variety of venues – including the Royal Albert Hall, where we actually shared the stage with Bryan Adams! – and basically had a blast doing something I love. Wednesday evenings and Thursday lunchtimes are now essential to my sanity, and even missing a single rehearsal makes me feel lost, somehow. I don’t know what I would do if I ever lost such an important part of my life.

Here’s a picture of Jayne so you can relate even more to her, although she writes so well that I bet you already feel like you know her a little already.


and here s another picture of Jayne that I found on our website at Sing & Inspire – she’s the one in red giving it the Jazz hands!


If any of you can relate to Jayne’s story in a way that you feel would benefit others I’d love you to comment below and/or share this story. I think everyone has had their confidence affected by their voice at some point or another. What I love is how Jayne has actually used her voice to help repair her self esteem.

So here’s my relevant #voicequote for todays story.

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And here’s a lovely quote to leave you with……

sing like noones listening

When do you sing like no ones listening? I’d love to know

….. I think it’s a great idea to do a little singing like no ones listening often, because remember, it really is “all about the voice,” and when you use your voice more, you encourage presence, increase your confidence and feel great!

until next time my lovely bloggees…..

the voice and the mind……..heal yourself through singing!

bird sings storm

Hello lovely people.

So todays story is from the most lovely Elaine. Its super inspiring because Elaine suffered with depression and found that singing in her local SUPERCHOIR transformed how she felt about herself. Elaine is such a bubbly person that you’d have no clue about her story from the way she behaves and interacts with other people. She’s a true inspiration.

Here’s the story!

I have suffered with depression for a number of years and this was controlled with a steady dose of Citalopram 40mg each day. 

Unfortunately, having taken the drug for a number of years I had to come off in August due to the fact it was no longer agreeing with me. 

I managed for a while but steadily the old feelings began to creep back in, low self-esteem and wanting to isolate myself were beginning to overwhelm me once again and I could no longer rely on medication to overcome these feelings. 

When you suffer with depression it’s so easy to isolate yourself and forget what you want out of life….I was spending long periods of time sat inside my home staring into space whilst trying to gather some kind of steady thought process again.  It was even becoming a problem to go to work because I could not function properly. 

During a rare moment of clarity, I realised that when I was younger I loved to sing and when I was happy I would often sing along to my favourite music.  It occurred to me that perhaps singing with other people instead of by myself may be a good thing for me and because I wanted to stay off of anti depressants and take control of my own feelings I knew if I wanted to help myself, then instead of just thinking about doing something positive I should go ahead and do something about it.  

I had come across the name ‘Sing and Inspire’ before, so I looked them up and found that indeed they offered not only Company choirs but a ‘Superchoir’ for those who did not have a choir at work but who liked to get together and sing.  

I went for my first session in November.   I was immediately put at ease by Patrick and the other members who went out of their way to welcome me.   After three weeks with the choir I felt changes in myself in that I had something to look forward to, there was a purpose to Wednesday evening.  People in the choir had said to me it didn’t matter how ill they were they’d always try and make it to choir, such was the ‘rush’ they experienced during the sessions.  If I’m honest I was sceptical about this at first but then realised one evening when I was out in the pouring rain on my way to choir practice that ordinarily I’d be making an excuse to stay home in front of the television and nothing could get me out of the door, yet here I was. 

Without wanting to sound clichéd, being in the choir has changed my life in a more positive way then I could ever have imagined.  Patrick, the choirmaster has a palpable energy that you just seem to absorb whenever you watch him and as I sing with my friends and hear beautiful sounds come together I can’t describe to anyone the amazing feeling I have inside.    I figured out after a very short period of time that if choirs were on the NHS less people would need medication because it brings people together and takes away the isolating lonely feelings that depression instils. 

When we did our first gig all I saw were smiling faces, people dancing around us and really enjoying what we were doing and that was just the best natural high I’d ever experienced.  

People in the choir are usually members of other choirs and it’s not hard to see why – one choir session is never really enough.   

I would say to anyone suffering with depression or in fact, any illness, join a choir, give it a chance.  You will meet new people, you’ll get out and about it can change your life.  Music is my medicine – give it a try.

Here’s the lovely Elaine just so you can put a face to the words – check out that smile!

elaine pic

And, here’s another quote for you for today that I feel is relevant.



A few years ago one of our choirs took part in a medical study with Cardiff University regarding the health benefits of singing regularly – this was conducted with Tenovus cancer charity and the results were ground breaking. Here’s the link for those of you who would like to delve further http://www.tenovus.org.uk/research/in-the-community/tenovus-sing-for-life-research-study/

The headline results were as follows

“After only three months the choir members in the study experiences significant and measurable improvements in  vitality, social functions and mental health as well as reduction in bodily pain. There were also indications that the choir alleviated anxiety and depression in members who reported these symptoms before the choir started”

School of Healthcare Studies – Cardiff University

The endorphin reaction in our bodies to singing is very similar to that of exercise, when we feel happier, our bodies are more resilient to pain and disease – so there you have it! Get singing and feel better! Its official 🙂 I love it!


How many of YOU, use singing as a form of self medication – its amazing how singing can change our frequency up, shift our feelings and make us feel good. Whether you’re someone who sings regularly or just someone who sings with their children or ‘closet’ sings in the car or the shower,  I’d love to hear your experiences so please comment below and share your stories about how singing makes you feel.

Here’s the link to my voice & singing pinterest page which I source a lot of my quotes and voice pictures from for this blog, you’ll also see my own #voicequotes and #voicetips suite that I’ve just created. Enjoy…………..


the next post will be up on Friday – so look out for it……until then…..


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Voice possibility!…..


Happy Wednesday lovely people!

So today’s story is really all about confidence and finding (or in this case re-finding) yourself through singing regularly. The very lovely Cath Smith or ‘CathTwo’ as she’s affectionately known because of her twitter handle is a founding member of our Cardiff SUPERCHOIR. Cath is the type of person who will get things done for you – she’s ever so kind and will organise lovely ‘thank you’s’ for people in secret and has created huge impact for a local charity of ours by being generous, innovative and wonderfully organised – she talks more about this in the story so you can read more later. Cath is story has an interesting angle in that she had sung pretty much all of her life, so the act of singing itself wasn’t something new. What was new was singing with the Sing & Inspire method and how this was integral to developing Cath’s self esteem.

The other thing to mention about Cath is that she on first glance appears to be a shy birdie! Cath isn’t the first to jump up and shout, or the loudest cub in the pack, but she’s got a lovely dispensation for standing back and stepping in when appropriate, and she’s pretty much as solid as a rock when it comes to reliability and loyalty.

So here’s her story – slightly edited as some of Cath’s story is SUPER CHOIR centric. I didn’t want some readers to feel lost in detail which would be hard for you to put into context if you weren’t a SUPER choir member.  Here it is in her words.

I’ve always enjoyed singing and was a member of some choir or other pretty much right the way through school as far as I can remember. There was something safe about singing with other people – I had my spot in the back and was perfectly happy; I never used to sing particularly loudly so couldn’t hear myself over everyone around me and that suited me fine!

Except it didn’t, really, as what I actually wanted to be doing was standing out at the front belting out solos. Every time auditions for school shows came around, I never went for them (even though I really, really wanted to) and always stayed in the chorus. It wasn’t that I thought I couldn’t sing – I was just incredibly, painfully shy and couldn’t sing in front of other people. Or, for that matter, speak – I used to avoid putting my hand up in lessons in case the teacher picked me and I’d have to answer a question with everyone listening. I was fine in conversations with friends, just like I was fine in choirs, but put me at the centre of attention and I’d clam up.

Sixth Form was better – all the kids who’d used to bully me left (I was a bully’s dream at school, I had everything – glasses, different accent from having lived in London, swot, the works), I started coming out of my shell a bit more, went for Head Girl (got Deputy – whoop!), started doing more in school concerts and even sang a solo once… I can’t remember whether I volunteered or was just told I was doing it, but I was very nearly sick with nerves beforehand and, as performances go, it was hindered somewhat by the window being open and the music blowing from the piano onto the floor which meant I had to start all over again so I pretty much ran out of the hall in relief when the ordeal was over… I didn’t do another one, let’s put it that way!

That’s about as out of my shell as I thought I’d manage to get, and I didn’t have anything I thought counted as performance experience anyway, so I put aside my secret hopes of becoming a stage star, went off to do History at uni, had fun, met some lovely people, sang in a gospel choir, was too shy to give any of the musical theatre groups a go (even though I really, really wanted to… we’ve been here before!), graduated and got on with getting jobs and things.

“Jobs and things” took me, via a long and winding road covering holiday camps, pensions admin, web development and product development (no, I’m not sure what they’ve got to do with History either…) to my current job, working as a Research Analyst for a company that builds care homes. My second year into the job, the charity committee that I sit on chose Ty Hafan to be our nominated charity for two years and the plan was to launch the partnership at that year’s Staff Conference. After a recommendation from Ty Hafan, Sing and Inspire were hired to take the afternoon session – we got split into groups (I was in yours) and had two hours to learn ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ before getting together to perform it as a company-wide choir. I was properly ill that day with a horrendous cold and until I got wind of what was going on I’d been tempted to slope off home early and go to bed as I was feeling pretty rubbish. As soon as I found out that we were going to be forming a giant choir I decided to stay – I put as much as I could into the singing (making myself feel even worse in the process) and sweated my way through it, having as much fun as someone who was ill and should really have been in bed could have in an afternoon! I loved it, the day ended, and I assumed that was that and forgot all about it…

Cue an email a month or so later telling us about a choir that was going to be trialled at work and asking for potential members to come forward! I think I was first to sign up – I’d never heard of workplace choirs before but they sounded like an amazing idea! I’d been looking to get back into choirs anyway as it had been years since I was last in one so the timing couldn’t have been better 🙂 I think you might’ve been at the first rehearsal, along with Patrick and Diane, and we did Baby It’s Cold Outside – I remember thinking it was the most fun I’d had in ages and how awesome it was to be singing again! A few weeks later, we were doing Silent Night (incidentally, still one of my favourites – it’s beautiful) and Diane asked me if I wanted to give the solo a go… and here’s where something odd happened because I found myself saying yes! I’ve no idea why – I drove home that evening in a bit of daze as I really couldn’t work out quite what had happened…

The next week I stayed behind after rehearsal to sing it through in front of Patrick and Diane – lovely as they are, it was pretty daunting standing there about to sing something that one of them had arranged with them both sat there watching me – it was my childhood nightmare realised!! I felt possibly more nervous than I’d ever felt in my life to that point but I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself and I knew I’d regret it if I pulled out at the last second (tempting as it was, even when they started the track playing!) so I went for it… it wasn’t perfect (it probably didn’t really hit ‘great’, if I’m honest) but I’d done it, I hadn’t passed out, they were still smiling and singing it again a second time didn’t seem half as bad after that The social side effects of singing in choirs again regularly have obviously been huge in that I’ve made loads of really good friends from all walks of life, most of whom I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. :).

A large majority of the things that I’ve done/experienced in the last few years that I look back on as having been fun or worthwhile are things that I’ve gotten to do as a direct result of either being in the choirs or because of the friendships that I’ve made through them

And that, as they say, is pretty much that! The work choir that started it all off isn’t going any more, but I’ve been in SUPERCHOIR since it started so still get to have my weekly fix of singing Sing and Inspire style. I’m also in the Sororitas Female Voice Choir, which I only found out about through getting to know people at SUPERCHOIR, and audition for just about every solo going in that 🙂 I’ve gigged at the WMC, I’ve helped to workshop a musical, I’ve done a radio interview and a couple of months ago I sang ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ from Les Mis in front of a (small-ish, but that’s not the point) theatre at Chapter Arts Centre with only myself and the pianist for company! And people clapped!

I’m now the most confident I’ve ever been, the shell I managed to sort of emerge from back in Sixth Form is now lying in pieces somewhere behind me, and I don’t know that I’d be able to say that if it wasn’t for meeting you and that amazing team of yours at Sing and Inspire. So …..

thanks 😀

Here’s the lovely Cath in all her glory

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Links that might be useful for reference here http://www.singandinspire.com/what-we-do/superchoir/ http://www.tyhafan.org/

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Music, music, music….

Yesterday I had a great day of music.

I gave a very close, historic friend a singing lesson as he’s recently joined the ‘Chaps choir’ in London. http://chapschoir.wordpress.com

After some fairly intense technique, we started to tackle the tension in his body and he began the process of unlocking his voice which was amazingly rewarding for me. The friend in question Peter, is a therapist and holistic practitioner. He’s someone who is used to making a hugely positive impact on people’s lives and ‘making them feel better’ so when after his lesson he said, “I need to have singing lessons with you regularly because it will help my confidence, I feel empowered….” I was not only really honoured and proud, but thought he’s a great case study for my unlocking the voice project and perhaps I can use his story for ‘it’s all about the voice’. Watch this space to see what happens over the coming months.

Then, in the evening my gorgeous husband and I went to see Bonobo at the sold out final show of his ‘North boarders tour’ in The Great Hall in Cardiff University. I spent many nights in the venue as a student (many many moons ago). And It was very nostalgic. I love Bonobo’s music, it’s got the right vibe of lyrical dance music I resonate with from when I was younger with some fantastic instrumentation, songs and visuals thrown in. Amazing banging bass and rhythm lines too to make you dance. I love music that has depth, it’s like eating rich food- it’s so nourishing! It helps that Simon Green, AKA Bonobo seems an all round hard working nice guy musician- who I identify with and I’m all for supporting! Check him out here, well worth getting the new album. http://bonobomusic.com


Bonobo is accompanied by the most wonderful singer Szjerdene, not only is she a fantastic performer and singer, she’s got this amazing presence like a more beautiful Nina Simone. Her vocals made the evening for me…….and it sent my head spiralling into visualisations of performing my original material again. I guess once a performer, always a performer, so I’m going to have to honour that desire and get on the band wagon again….(thanks Universe) I’ve got a wealth of change happening in my life at the moment so re kindling the writing might be the key to sanity. Who knows!

Here’s a picture of the beautifully handsome Szjerdene just so you can put her on your radar.

So a little post to sandwich in-between story posts, there will be a new story up this week so pop back.

Until then, for me, it really is all about the voice, in so many ways, and as always, music is so essential for keeping life flowing, and such a great frequency changer……music helps me feel good instantly…..how about you?


It’s Story time…..Cathy Jones – What Singing has done for me!

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Hello folks – happy Friday 🙂

Today’s story is from a truly inspiring woman who like Angela in the previous story belongs to the Sing for life Choir, a choir dedicated to improving the lives of those effected by cancer.
I am very privileged to have known Cathy’s late husband Hywel who was a lovely man a great speaker. Cathy’s journey largely surrounds her journey with her husbands illness and how singing helped her through……..

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Here it is..


My name is Cathy Jones and I’m an alto in the fabulous Tenovus Sing for Life choir!
I joined the choir in January 2010 with my lovely husband Hywel. Tenovus the Welsh cancer Charity started the choir with the help of Sing & Inspire to research the health and wellbeing benefits of singing in a choir for people who had been affected by cancer. When we joined the choir my husband had been through gruelling treatment for head and neck cancer and had been clear of cancer for almost 3 years. 3 months after we joined the choir we had the devastating news that his cancer had returned and that this time it was incurable. Over the next 2 years he went through more gruelling treatment but throughout that horrendously difficult period we both continued to sing and go to our weekly choir practices. Singing was something that, no matter what terrible news we received, we wanted to carry on doing as often as we could. Singing in this special choir made us both feel supported, understood and uplifted. Sadly Hywel died last July. The choir continues to be my support group and the amazing people who are part of that choir are good friends who have helped me to carry on since losing Hywel.

We went to our first choir practice in early January 2010 when it was freezing cold and snow was on the ground. It was great fun from the start, it took a week or two’s practicing to relax a little and start chatting to others. Hywel was in a social environment where he didn’t feel excluded and I was meeting new people who understood what it was like for me too. We were given CDs to sing along to and Andrea and George from Sing & Inspire gave Hywel some vocal exercises to help him with his breathing and to strengthen his voice as he had a paralysed vocal chord following surgery for his cancer. I would drive Hywel mad with my constant practicing in the kitchen!

The choir only met a couple of times before we performed at Tenovus’ biggest fundraising event of the year – their annual St David’s day dinner. We had an amazing evening. The choir were on a real high after singing well and emotions were running very high for a couple of days after the event.

The choir went from strength to strength after the big performance. I have made some really good friends there, and when Hywel was told his cancer was back we carried on going every week, missing only a few practices when Hywel was having treatment. We have performed with the Pendyrus Male voice choir, the Treorchy Male Voice choir, and have been the support act for Only Men Aloud on a couple of occasions. The most memorable performance for me was in Liverpool in Nov 2010, we opened the National Cancer Research Institute’s conference. Hywel pushed himself to come to choir practice when he was having chemo because I was auditioning to sing a small solo part in Liverpool and he thought I might chicken out of auditioning if he didn’t come along to the rehearsals! I got the part and sang a small alto part at the start of our version of “You’ll never Walk Alone”. I think knowing I was going to sing the solo helped us both have the trip to Liverpool as something to focus on beyond the end of Hywel’s chemotherapy. Hywel said he felt very proud when I sang. I felt I was singing the words for him and it was a great feeling to be performing at such an appropriate event and singing a solo has helped me with my confidence which was severely knocked after Hywel’s cancer diagnosis. We had a standing ovation at the end of our performance. Hywel found the trip exhausting but also exhilarating.

Hywel missed quite a few rehearsals during the summer and autumn of 2011 as his voice had grown very weak again and the pain from his treatment scarring was very debilitating. I had carried on going on my own, I still enjoyed going but really missed him being there. When Hywel’s consultant told Hywel that he thought he could improve his voice with surgery, we jumped at the chance. Two weeks after the operation Hywel was back at choir and delighted that he could sing again.

Sadly Hywel’s new voice was shortlived as his cancer could no longer be contained and he became too weak to go to choir. I went as often as I could for an energy boost and respite from caring for Hywel. He managed to go to one rehersal 6 weeks before he died so that he could listen to us singing one last time.

‘Lean on me’ was Hywel’s favourite choir song, it was borrowed from Bill Withers, sprinkled with a little bit of Glee, and arranged especially for us by Sing and Inspire, in fact the Sing for Life choir sang the song beautifully at his funeral as a tribute to him and as a way of supporting and comforting each other.

I only missed two choir practices after Hywel’s funeral, I didn’t want to stay away. It is a year since Hywel died and singing helps me to feel like me again: it gives me strength; it helps me to forget sadness and remember happiness when I need to; it helps me to get my emotions out on the days when they are locked inside me and I am numb and lost. Singing is definitely my therapy and my passion and something I wouldn’t want to be without.


Here’s a picture of Cathy singing at her 50th Birthday…….

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Sometimes singing gives us a voice we never thought we’d have, and sometimes singing with others holds us up and helps us be who we need to be. Yet another truly inspiring story which confirms in my heart that so much of what we go through in life can be helped, healed and improved by acknowledging our voice.  Thanks so much Cathy for bravely sharing your story. I’m honoured to have played a part in you feeling at home with the sing for life choir.


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