Frankie Armstrong – The Godmother of the Community Singing Movement

March 31, 2024 - By 

We have loved hearing stories of your choirs, how you came together, what was the spark that ignited the flame right at the beginning, and how things have developed since then. There are almost as many different stories as there are choirs, and this is one of the fascinating things about this recent explosion of Community Choirs in particular.

I was chatting to Gitika Partington, my fellow ChoirCommunity pal, who has been running choirs long before I started in the early 2000s. I asked her where she originally got her spark from and her answer was instantaneous, “Oh that would be Frankie Armstrong – she ran a workshop in the early 90s and she set me on the path.”  So I had to discover more about this amazing woman.

Frankie started running her Natural Voice workshops in 1975, and you can read more about her at her own website, which I would recommend, but here is a potted history anyway.

She was very much part of the 1960s folk scene, working and singing alongside legends such as Roy Bailey, Pete Seeger and Leon Rosselson. She has actually recorded 12 albums herself as a solo singer but in the mid seventies she found herself through her youth and community work in situations where leading group singing was required. Having lost much of her sight at a young age she could only really communicate through her voice so teaching by ear was the only way.

As part of the cultural and political scene she was always keen to develop a sense of well being and community through music, and this led to a holistic approach which used the voice as a tool to aid self confidence, expression and creativity. Together with her partner Darien Pritchard she devised a way that the voice and body could be connected, and movement has become an integral part of what they do. Among other posts she is the founder and President of the Natural Voice Network, a fabulous organisation which exists to promote the teaching of songs by ear and that singing is for everyone, tenets most of us would 100% agree with.

I decided to email her and ask if she would do an interview. To my utter delight and amazement she enthusiastically accepted my request and a week after discovering about this wonderful woman I found myself interviewing her, together with Gitika who of course she remembers well. Her boundless enthusiasm for singing together and creating meaningful relationships through working with the voice and the body is still as sharp and vital as ever. The evidence is here and I urge you all to watch it and find out more.

Frankie is touring Europe and the UK later this summer.  Her current itinerary so far is here.

She is in Bristol in May and also July.  Watch out for news of further workshops we are going to organise and set up, and you too can learn first hand from this icon of community singing, as so many have before.

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