Singing has been a part of Janice Fryett’s for as long as she can remember.
In fact one of her clearest memories as a child is entertaining her mother while she did the housework by warbling My Boy Lollipop and a variety of other popular numbers.
Half a century later and Janice, from Newton, is still hitting those notes.
She has made music and singing an integral part of her life and career, although funnily enough, her audiences have changed slightly.
After a varied career teaching RE in a number of Cheshire schools and working professionally as a guest artiste with male voice choirs, Janice now works primarily as a voice coach on the stage or in her own studio.
Along the way she’s worked as a professional guest artiste with male voice choirs, sung in community productions including the recent Chester Mystery Plays, and has trained thousands of teachers to lead singing with children for the government initiative Sing Up.
But it’s not all been plain sailing for Janice. During the last decade, she suddenly had to stop performing because she simply lost her nerve for singing.
Janice remembers: “Acting and comedy were fine but I preferred to sing comedy songs so I could hide behind them.
“I figured if people were laughing at the words and physicality then they wouldn’t be criticising my singing.”
“It all started when I was singing in a professional three soprano line-up in Newcastle and, when the promoter was told that I wrote the scripts for our shows as well as doing the comedy songs, he turned to me and said, “Oh, so you’re the brains and they’re the voice.
“My fragile confidence just crumbled,” she remembers.
After that, although Janice was still singing with children and training reluctant teachers to lead singing with children, she wouldn’t sing in public and lost touch with her own voice.
“Two things happened to get me back into performing,” recalls Janice.
“One was being asked by Matt Baker to sing in theatre in the Quarter’s production of James in 2010 and the other was learning more about how the voice works by going on an Estill Voice course.
“I remember being really excited about the first rehearsal for James and also telling Matt not to give me any solos to do as I had lost my nerve.
“I sat there trying to blend in, but ended up helping less confident singers to learn the music and even started a choir with my husband in our home so those people had some singing to do when James had finished.
“The Estill Voice course taught me so much about vocal mechanisms and which parts of our vocal apparatus do what.
“This knowledge enabled me to make better aesthetic choices when singing in different genres but, most importantly for me at the time, it taught me what to do when I was nervous so that my voice would not come out as a strangulated shriek or disappear altogether.”
Janice added: “After that I was able to climb back on the stage with confidence in further theatre in the Quarter productions like A Christmas Carol, where I was one of two sopranos in a small group, and Chester Mystery Plays where I sang in a group of three at the burial of Jesus which was featured on Songs of Praise recently!”
Things are easier now Janice’s confidence has returned, and she is thrilled to be able to impart her wisdom on to others and make a real difference to them.
“What’s been brilliant is passing on my knowledge, whether to private students or large groups such as the Mystery Play cast, choirs and trainee teachers,” she adds.
“When choir singers come to me and say they have not become hoarse once since I taught them how to sing without constriction, I know that sharing my knowledge has really made a difference.”