Vocal Journeys: Finding Voice and Community in the UK and Georgia

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper reports on the natural voice movement, associated in the UK first and foremost with the Natural Voice Network (NVN), and the ever-growing number of amateur singers who are drawn to the vocal traditions of 'other' cultures. With its roots in the pioneering work of Frankie Armstrong, the NVN is founded on the belief that 'singing is everyone’s birthright'. Songs from the world’s oral traditions have provided the lynchpin for the natural voice phenomenon and the new generation of open-access community choirs it has inspired for reasons that are summarised in this paper. Serving initially as a source of musical inspiration and an opportunity for vocal exploration, the embodied experience of unfamiliar sound worlds has also proven to be a powerful catalyst for personal transformation. Through the example of musical encounters in Georgia, I show how singing can be the key that allows people to become participants in lives lived elsewhere, with the potential to lead to deeper understandings of both self and other in ways that reach far beyond the music itself. The paper draws on long-term ethnographic fieldwork grounded in participant-observation and semi-structured interviews and is further informed by my research into the contemporary politics of cultural heritage in Georgia. My theoretical framing draws on trends and concerns in ethnomusicology, anthropology and cultural studies as well as community music studies. My findings offer novel perspectives on themes of community, participation, empowerment and belonging as I explore the dynamics that come into play at the intersection of the individual and collective, the personal and social, the local and global. More specifically, this study reveals the potential of musical repertoires and practices from outside one’s own culture for helping to achieve some of the aims and objectives of Community Music.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018
EventInternational Society for Music Education Pre-conference – Community Music Commission - National Centre for Teacher Professional Development (and other locations in Tbilisi), Tbilisi, Georgia
Duration: 10 Jul 201814 Jul 2018


ConferenceInternational Society for Music Education Pre-conference – Community Music Commission


  • Natural Voice Network
  • Amateur choral culture
  • Community choirs
  • World song
  • Georgia (Caucasus)
  • Musical tourism


Dive into the research topics of 'Vocal Journeys: Finding Voice and Community in the UK and Georgia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this