“Joyous and jubilant, now I go better on my way”

The Feral Choir project is a series of vocal workshops with non-professionals, leading up to performances. It originated in the late 1980’s when I was asked to do some workshops with ‘non-singers’ in the Musik Centrum Stockholm. The success of these led me to develop the idea further. The choir consists of a three day workshop and performance, not only for singers but for anyone who takes a delight in the freedom to experiment. I encourage participants to take a vocal leap and explore all vocal possibilities through exercises and improvisations, over the workshop period, leading to a concert.

Feral Choir workshops and performances have subsequently been held in many different places around the world including Berlin, Centre for Performance Research Cardiff, Musickzentrum Munich, Tokyo, Angelica Bologna, City Festival Lausanne, Institute for Living Voice Antwerp, Baltimore, Nante, Brest, Oxford, Paris, Oakland, Melbourne, St. Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bristol, Pau, Florence, Le Man, Trondheim, Rotterdam, Ghent, Zurich, Nancy Vandoeuvre, Poitiers, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Brugge, Strasbourg, and Aberystwyth.

Some of the choirs have been made up of professionals, sometimes actors and musicians, but many have been amateur groups with no previous musical interest or experience. These have been particularly rewarding, as has the work with teenagers in Belgium and Holland, and the responses from the participants have been overwhelmingly positive.

My recent experience of working with singers, many of whom think they cannot sing, has strengthened my conviction that the human voice is capable of so much more than is generally understood. In the workshops I have encouraged participants to realise that anyone who can breathe, is capable of producing sounds that give a positive aesthetic contribution to the human condition and many of these contributions are without any cultural influences or references.

The workshops normally begin with laughter, a non-verbal ‘vocal technique’ which uses the voice in spontaneous, inventive and sometimes very extreme way. I know that these workshops have a very positive impact on the participants, and I spend enough time with each group to be able to leave a lasting ‘legacy’ and hopefully a structure in which the resulting choir can continue after I have left.

Some of the comments from previous Feral Choir participants are as follows:

  • “You have let the sun enter into my head”

  • “Thank you for the most fantastic experience to let us express ourselves in this way”.

  • “A new heart in my voice”.

  • “You and your work brings happiness (and other great things) to people”

“After singing with the feral choir I felt elated and alive. My voice felt bigger afterwards, and I find myself still appreciating how much it can do.”

I hope that the workshops and performances will offer a similar experience to the many often ‘voiceless’ people who participate.