I began singing lessons with Bridget twenty years ago.
I wanted to re-join a Chamber Choir which had been my ambition for some time and I felt I needed to improve the strength of my voice. Working with Bridget gave me a new confidence and a more critical ear. She helped me place my voice and encouraged me to record the lessons and work on them at home. I was impressed that her teaching method was based on a physiological knowledge of the vocal chords and she used metaphors to enhance the technique. Most of all it was Bridget’s commitment and perception that made me return to lessons.
Now that I am recovering from serious physical difficulties, Bridget’s lessons inspire me to work to bring my voice back to its previous quality.
I think I started singing lessons nearly 3 years ago. This was because I was finding it increasingly difficult to sing for a length of time and very difficult to reach higher notes. I had no wish to have to become an alto. I also didn’t have much confidence in my ability to sing at that time although I didn’t realise at the time how bad it was.
Having lessons with Bridget has hugely increased my confidence in singing. I can value what lam able to do much more. That has led me to be able to try different outlets for my singing which has greatly enriched my life. I am only sorry I didn’t find Bridget earlier in my life.
Not only has my confidence inceased but so has my vocal range and I believe that my vocal tone has also improved vastly. I am also discovering a much wider range of music to sing than I could ever have imagined. I greatly appreciate not being made to sing as if I had a mouthful of cherry stones. I also appreciate the time that Bridget takes to explain how the voice is produced physiologically so that I have some understanding of how to approach certain notes that would be difficult for me to sing otherwise. The understanding helps me to anticipate where I might slip back into my old sloppy ways and adjust my thinking to avoid those pitfalls.
I love my lessons because I always feel energised by them. They are fun, though sometimes really hard work. We usually have a good laugh about something or other.
After singing as a tenor in choirs for many years, I had become more and more dissatisfied with the sound I produced and the increasing efforts I needed to produce a sound at all. I was concerned that I might have to stop singing in my fifties. I was recommended by a friend to consult Bridget as a vocal coach.
She discussed what I wanted to achieve – a pleasant vocal tone that would last me into old age. She has taught me a completely different, coherent technique of voice production following traditional Bel Canto methods, paying attention to correct placing of every vowel in every part of the voice. Although there is still much to be done to achieve an even tone over two octaves, Bridget’s detailed technical guidance has made me much happier with the sound I now produce, much more comfortable using my voice and much more in demand as a singer in small groups.
I started lessons in summer 2008. I was singing in the alto section of a choir, and felt that my voice didn’t have an alto quality, and my low notes were not strong. So I wanted to develop my lower voice.
Bridget diagnosed that my voice was not supported, was thus “out of alignment”, and had an unwelcome movement on held notes. She began work with exercises to train the sympathetic nervous system so that the brain, vocal cords, and abdominal muscles worked together. I learned to make very ‘acute’ vowel sounds, which caused the muscles to work. We started work with the upper range of the voice, where Bridget felt that the voice could learn to ‘lift’ and ‘hold’, before that mastery could be applied lower in the range.
I thought that Bridget has a very clear philosophy and is very knowledgeable about how the voice works. She knew what things might be happening with the vocal cords, how certain notes involved particular movements of the vocal cords e.g. she sometimes warned me that I might be ‘crackly’, or low notes might feel as if there was mucous in the larynx. And indeed, that was what happened. And she could explain why, and tell me it was all right at this stage. She has an acute ear, and finds images to help the singer do what is needed.
All the previous work I had done with teachers or choir coaches separated the support and the note: the singer thinks ‘support’ does something, and then sings. With Bridget’s method, you think of what you want to sing (the acute vowel), and that creates the support. I found this revelatory.
She is very focussed and professional in her approach. Throughout the hour’s lesson she gives full attention to me and my voice. She knows when the voice needs a brief rest. l like being able to record the lesson so I can listen and practise at home. She combines rigour and encouragement; the feedback she gives is both honest and encouraging. She has been open that the voice takes as long as it takes to do what is needed.I was enormously encouraged when a couple of Lessons ago you said that I was now able to do something on eh which previously had had to be done on ee. I hadn’t realized what was going on so I liked being told that. And in the last lesson, there is a section where you said keep that on the tape so you can hear how the note is bang in tune and lifts up. And also that I might find during the next two weeks that sometimes it wouldn’t do that, but that it would come back. That is the kind of knowledgeable, honest and encouraging feedback I am talking about.
The world of singers is littered with the casualties of over-complicated teaching methods. Special breathing techniques, mouth positions, soft palette placements, posture adjustments, vowel pronunciations and all sorts of similar distractions from the main event conspire to create a great deal of doubt and confusion in the aspiring singer. Whilst varied approaches work well for different people, often the challenge of finding the right teacher proves too daunting. It is easier to continue studying with one’s initial choice and people often persevere with an incompatible approach.
Having made this mistake in the past, I was determined to locate a teacher who was right for me and so interviewed and tried out three teachers. Though I can only judge from my own perspective, I was delighted to find Bridget, who seemed determined for her own part to understand exactly what I was seeking and was confident she could help.
Bridget’s method may not be traditional, but classical technique is what she is encouraging. Patient, insightful, with a good sense of humour and a great ear she is able to gently coax the natural sounds from the layers of previous and often conflicting, instructions.
Hers is quite a minimal and direct approach. Using simple repetitions of sounds, rather than jumping straight into a demanding aria, she aims to focus the singer on the purity of their own sound. Once the brain knows what to do, it can direct the vocal cords and all the myriad supporting muscles to do what they must to make the whole system work effortlessly. This takes time, as muscles must be re-taught or brought into play from a dormant state. And the beauty of the method is the freedom it encourages. Unburdened from thinking about posture, breathing, indeed from all the bits that one assumes singing must entail, one finds oneself producing sound quite naturally. She does not aim to produce any particular style; she is not creating opera singers but bringing out the natural singer within. She claims the system knows what to do itself, as a child will sing without having to consider anything but singing and it is as natural as running or jumping.
Bridget is able to reward and praise and encourage a positive attitude toward a very gradual progress. But once it all starts to click, it makes sense and really works.
I started lessons with Bridget a few years ago following a warm recommendation by a friend. He was so complimentary that I had to find out for myself. I’ve been struggling with my voice for many years and was looking for a teacher who could reliably guide me on the journey of placing my voice and consolidating my technique.
I have been to many teachers over the years, and Bridget is the only one I feel has the understanding of where I am at with my voice, what is needed to place it, and the knowhow, patience and dedication to see it through.
I began lessons with Bridget because I was singing with a Klezmer band in folk clubs, and I used to lose my voice after gigs, so I knew I was doing something wrong. In the first session Bridget had seen what was the problem and had reassured me that it wouldn’t be a problem. Within the first few sessions Bridget had moved me from being an alto to a soprano and suddenly everything became easier to sing (even if the band moaned that every couple of months I changed the keys!). I stopped losing my voice, my breathing got better and I got tons of compliments.
Bridget is always so supportive of where I am at, and gently gives me exercises that move me on. I tape every session and use those tapes between sessions very regularly. The exercises over time have got me into new habits of breathing, of singing from a different place. She uses visualization to imagine where the sound comes from and goes and this helps with resonance. I continued because the improvement kept up.
I then had a break because I was recording and gigging and using the new techniques I’d been taught. I am going to come back to lessons because now I want to move on further. I want to get greater depth into my voice and concentrate on some more specifics.
People who have not heard me for a while are staggered at the difference, and the people who hear me regularly say my voice just gets better and better.
So I am delighted with Bridget as a voice teacher. Without her, my singing life would be utterly different and I wouldn’t have produced a CD with such confidence and wouldn’t have got the gigs that we continue to get.
I first came to see Bridget about 14 years ago. I had been a semi professional singer song writer for some years and had already had vocal tuition. However, even though I was able to access my soprano voice with relative ease, l always had this feeling that there was another, bigger, deeper, stronger voice within me that I could not access. I mentioned this to a friend who immediately recommended I go and have a session with Bridget.
What a discovery! Not only did I begin a journey of accessing a voice more powerful and a range that stretched way beyond what I had hoped, but a teacher and champion that continues to be a complete delight to work with. I am never disappointed, only re-inspired, particularly if I have not been to see Bridget for a while. I have recommended her to all my of my singer friends and associates, who also feel inspired by her work with them. I have now begun to send my daughter to her for lessons what more can I say!
I began lessons with Bridget in 1991. An actress friend who was studying with Bridget at the Actors Centre highly recommended her and said she was ‘brilliant’. I’d recently finished a No. 1 tour of The Pirates of Penzance and felt something was lacking in my technique as my voice was very tired from the 6 month tour. I went for my first lesson/voice test and realised my friend had been right.
I have never looked back or needed another teacher since. Often, when I’m having a lesson with Bridget it’s hard to believe that it is my voice coming out of my mouth and body as it sounds so free and powerful. Bridget seems to know instinctively, no matter what mood or physical state I am in, how to get the best out of me. How to coax, cajole and draw my voice out to its fullest potential on that day.
In between lessons, I work with a tape from the previous lesson when practising. There is always huge improvement (I think so) because the exercises are individual to my progress at that time.
When life or work has taken me away from Bridget for a period of time, I come back and pick up where we left off and catch up to where I was quickly. This is because the technique Bridget uses is there for the health and soul of the voice.
I was fortunate enough to have worked with Bridget for almost two years. During that time I learnt more from her in one lesson than I had with others in five years. This is because Bridget is able to read the voice instantly. She knows exactly what it is doing, why it is doing it and what needs to be done. In just one or two simple exercises she completely realigns the voice so that it sings itself! If everyone has a genius, teaching singing is most definitely Ms. Bridget de Courcy`s.
Claudia Di Cosmo-Simon
This extraordinary woman, with her amazing ear, her rare skills, coupled with her knowledge, patience, wisdom and insight, brought me from being an actor and raw, incompetent, self doubting singer, into one that has received plaudits for singing on stage, and what is more, has loved doing so. My lessons with Bridget de Courcy have been a source of enrichment in my life.
© Bridget de Courcy 2019