St Blase, an Armenian bishop, said to have saved a boy from death by fish bone in the throat, is now invoked as the healer of sore throats in the Catholic Church.
I have been so fortunate to work on summer camps and courses with National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and also with the Eton Choral Courses. I have, over the years, really had to think about what my role is on those courses, and have somewhat drifted away from where I was a few years back. These weeks are fairly intensive, with a lot of rehearsal hours. The young singers often come from having been doing little singing, and they are facing what can only be described as a singing marathon. Both of these institutions are extremely thorough in their approach to vocal health and stamina, imparting continuous information about healthy body balance and alignment, breathing and vocal production, and monitoring the health of their singers through the week. I have really come to understand that our role as teachers on these courses, whilst imparting (hopefully) plenty of new nuggets of technical/performance/interpretion information, is predominantly to safeguard these voices as they work towards the final concerts of their week. It is with this in mind that I have attended courses recently with Ed Blake (laryngeal physiotherapist) and Anne-Marie Speed (‘The Voice Explained’ Estill model) and with Dane Chalfin, rehab expert with injured and fatigued rock and pop singers. I’ve pilfered many fantastic stretch and release exercises, delved into the causes of and solutions to Muscle Tension Dysphonia, and thought a great deal about how best to encourage healthy practise in our charges during these intensive weeks. This also goes for our singers in schools and Universities as they approach a show, perhaps, or a tour. The only problem is that once you start delving into these courses in depth, and applying some of the knowledge in your teaching, you could quickly become rather addicted to finding out more!