Changing Lives through Song

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


An invited one-day lecture-workshop for the Seminários do Musicar Local, hosted by the University of Campinas and funded by FAEPEX. Abstract: Lecture: This presentation will examine the recent explosion in amateur singing activity, illustrated by materials from my ethnographic fieldwork in the UK and elsewhere. I will focus in particular on the alternative choral culture represented by the UK’s well-established network of open-access community choirs, supported by organisations such as the Natural Voice Network and Giving Voice. How has the natural voice phenomenon contributed to the democratisation of singing? Why have songs from the world’s oral traditions provided the lynchpin for this movement? How do these choirs enable individuals to find their voice, metaphorically as well as literally? How does singing help build communities, and how does local activity become part of national and international initiatives? I will also explore the ways in which this kind of singing culture – both in and beyond the UK – intersects with political activism (including participation in marches and demonstrations) and how it facilitates intercultural contact (including engagement with different ethnic groups in the local community as well as transnational connections). Drawing on critical thinking in ethnomusicology, anthropology, cultural studies, performance studies and community music therapy, I theorise these trends with reference to concepts such as participation, empowerment and transformation. Workshop: This will be a participatory session featuring a selection of warm-up exercises and songs drawn from the natural voice and community choir repertoire. Practical activity will be supplemented by explanations regarding choice of material. What is the rationale behind different kinds of exercises or styles of songs? What kinds of techniques are used to teach the songs by ear? What kinds of songs are best suited to different kinds of singing groups or performance contexts? A selection of teaching materials will also be available for participants to peruse.
Period14 Apr 2018
Held atUniversity of Campinas, Brazil
Degree of RecognitionRegional


  • Amateur singing
  • Natural voice
  • Community choirs
  • Singing and political activism