At weekends, we post some of our most popular blogs. Tell us your favourites by emailing email@example.com
Calling sign singers nation wide…
They say you should never meet your idols. But I met one of mine last week and I was faaaar from disappointed. See below, myself with Caroline Parker or Caro as she’s affectionately known… Sign singing diva and BSL actress.
I first saw Caro perform when she was touring the one woman show, “Signs of a Diva” and I went to see it at Wolverhampton’s Arena Theatre.
I’ve never seen a show like it.
The intimacy of the production along with the excellent accessibility (sign language AND captions) meant I drove home that night with so many songs in my head, both old and new.
It was the first and probably the only time I have seen a sign singer that not only translates the words but actually embodies the music. She dances, she sways, she accentuates and she pauses… In all the right places.
So it was a dream to meet and work with Caro this week on a separate theatrical piece. Chatting to her about sign singing, it was clear how dedicated she is to the art form and how hard she works to create pieces that aren’t just “lyrics translated” but actual living, breathing songs.
She treated me and our colleagues to a personal rendition of Bette Midlers “The Rose” and her training in story telling, mime, dance and BSL were all evident.
I couldn’t really hear the song playing but I was made aware of its rhythm. The pulse of her movements was addictive, causing us to rock sideways, mesmerised. Her feet tapped to the keys of the piano, her core swayed as the ballad grew in volume.
I explained to Caro how without these visual cues I wouldn’t have understood the music and she agreed that having some kind of musical understanding when you’re sign singing is imperative. Without that, it’s not a song.
“If you’re going to perform a sign song, you must incorporate the music. A sign song without the music is BSL poetry.”
And I couldn’t agree more. Yet this is where the real skill comes in that distinguishes it from BSL poetry, because in order to fuse BSL with music – a task almost like tapping your head while rubbing your stomach – you have to be aware of BOTH stories the song is telling; lyrically and musically.
It’s not easy, I must say. And whether you’re deaf or hearing there will always be elements of a song to work on and explore. Sure, hearing people have the advantage of absorbing musical structures quicker but where there’s a will there’s a way- believe me 😉
It comes as no surprise then to learn that it took Caro four years to develop and polish her own sign song version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody…! With such an abstract plot and varying musical styles throughout, I can’t say I’m surprised…
Caro went on to say that as an artist, you don’t expect other people to simply copy your sign songs, rather – they should develop their own expression of the song. Nobody can or should try and sign in the exact same way as somebody else; songs can mean so many different things to different people.
And I’m particularly keen to see more sign singers in the coming months. Are YOU a sign singer? Or would you love to perform in a sign singing group?
Well… Drum roll please… I’m very excited to say that I will be part of the judging panel for the UK’s very first mainland sign song choir competition next March 11th 2017.
Held at the Albert Hall in Nottingham, the event is the first of its kind as there has never been a platform like it for choirs to perform and compete on such a scale. Organised by Simon Astill of Harmoneyes, the event will be fully accessible and have a high energy, carnival like feel to the whole evening.
Up to 15 choirs can enter to compete, and audience tickets are now on sale.
And to all those entering, you know what I’ll be looking for. Tell the story, make the music come alive and you can’t go far wrong.
Full details can be found here: https://nationalsigningchoircompetition.org/
I can’t wait!
Rebecca-Anne Withey is an actress, sign singer and tutor of performing arts. A black country girl at heart, she now resides in Derby where she works in both performance art and holistic therapies. She writes on varied topics close to her heart in the hope that they may serve to inspire others.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out 7 things deaf people want you to know!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Eyewitness Media: TV and film from a Deaf perspective
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- Association of Notetaking Professionals: The professional body representing Electronic and Manual Notetakers
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Hearing Choices: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people