Singing Performance: An Inclusive Roundtable Dialogue to Share Insights on the Thinking Which Informs our Teaching and Performance


  • Sara Clethero London College of Music


There is no point in philosophy unless it helps us to live our lives. It is not the exclusive preserve of academic philosophers, but a matter of vital concern to us all. Life is difficult and full of things that we have to deal with, but don’t understand, or only partly understand. The main, and possibly the only reason for philosophy is to help us negotiate this maze with peace and self-respect, so that we can maximise our contribution to the world in which we live, and the communities of which we are part. This enterprise is both complex, because each of us is different from everyone else and there is a seemingly infinite number of interactions possible between all the factors that affect our lives, and it is also gloriously simple. It is simple because we have evolved to survive and be effective and if we learn to work with this it is almost all that we have to do. Of course, making clear what is simple is often more difficult and, sometimes, more controversial than complex arguments. Clarity makes it more possible for people to know where they stand. We see this in operation in singing lessons all the time. The student knows their music and their body is poised to sing it, but there are so many things that we all add in – formality of approach which gets in the way of the music speaking directly, extra effort in some part of the throat, for example, which stops the notes flowing as they could and extra tension in the lower back which a person erroneously thinks they need in order to stay upright. And each of these things is, fundamentally, complicating something which is actually very simple – using the flow of breath over the vocal chords to produce pitched sound.

Author Biography

Sara Clethero, London College of Music

Sara Clethero is Head of Voice at the London College of Music (since 2005) and author of several conference papers on existential philosophy and singing performance. Her singing career started at the Bayreuth Festival as an Edelknabe in Tannhäuser and she then sang at La Monnaie in Brussels and at Welsh National Opera and the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. She is founder and director of OperaMint, a training company for opera singers which has given opportunities to many leading singers including Richard Wiegold, Paul Carey Jones, and Catherine Foster. She was the convenor of the Thinking and Singing conference this past April at the Institute for Musical Research at the School for Advanced Studies, University of London.