Elenore W. is a Gokhale Elements alumna hailing from Canada. She kindly volunteered to share her experience with the Gokhale Method. — Editor
Elenore W., singer and Gokhale Elements alumna, with her trusty ukulele. Image supplied.
I lost my voice completely 5 years ago after singing a full out concert of Brahms’ Requiem. My voice came back, but never with the same resonance. The ears/nose/throat specialist said there was nothing wrong, but I knew something was. I couldn’t sing for long without having a sore throat. My speaking voice became raspy very easily. I couldn’t sing through a phrase without gasping for air. After a physio appointment, I’d have “my” voice back for a day or two and then everything would go back to “not normal.”
Voice problem...or neck problem?
Finally an Alexander Technique teacher told me: “Elenore, it’s not your voice, it’s your neck.” I took about 10 lessons with her and they did help, but I found the exercises tedious and didn’t experience enough success to stay motivated. Still I searched — acupuncture, chiropractic, reflexology — nothing helped for long. But I knew that if it was my neck and posture, there had to be something out there that would work for me.
Feldenkrais was another modality I tried. After a free summit I signed up for a course. It was lovely and gave me lots of new body awareness but was disappointing as an ultimate answer for my vocal issues.
Lots of women my age would just quit choir and singing, saying they must be too old. I was determined to show that a 67-year-old could still sing!
A new tack — that worked
I’d found the Gokhale Method online, ordered the book and tried following the instructions, but couldn’t seem to get it. After a free class with Esther, I was infected by her enthusiasm, convinced by her statistics, and decided to bite the bullet. Thank Goddess I did! I did the initial consultation with Esther and then the Elements class with Sheelagh Tobin. The results speak for themselves…
My husband and I put on three beach concerts from the balcony of our home this summer. This is what the distanced crowd looked like:
The distanced audience for our July beach concert. Our house is in the background, with the balcony visible. Image supplied.
The first of our three beach concerts took place in July when I had just started the Elements class. Notice how my shoulders hunch around the ukulele in the picture below and my neck strains toward the microphone. I was so disappointed to see this picture. I’d been determined to use my new learning. But I wasn’t surprised. This was a 30 minute children’s show and my voice felt strained throughout. Afterwards, I was vocally very fatigued.
This balcony concert with my husband Roland took place before I’d finished the Gokhale Elements class. You can see how I’m hunching my shoulders around my ukulele, with my neck straining toward the microphone. Image supplied.
The second show of about 45 minutes was much better, but still not what I’d hoped for. I made Roland do most of the songs, fearing my voice wouldn’t last.
Then we started planning the season finale. By the time of our performance on September 5, I had completed the course and looked like this while performing:
The air was a bit hazy from distant West Coast wildfires, but you can still see a noticeable change developing in my posture. Image supplied.
We put on a one-hour (!!!) program called Love and Dreams! Afterwards, I felt great. I’d sung lead or harmony in every song and afterwards my voice still resonated while speaking!
Just so you know, every muscle in my body (except my vocal chords) is a bit achy all the time right now. Maybe it’s having misused my muscles for 67 years, or maybe I want the results too quickly. I’m so new at this that I am always cautious to maintain my alignment lest the raspiness return. I keep telling my body that the challenge of re-learning movement is going to be worth it in the long run. I give my muscles sauna time, and lots of stretchlying or stretchsitting for relaxation. Every time I feel the power and resonance back in my voice, it’s totally worth it!