We talk to the singer, a regular at the Time & Leisure Studios at New Wimbledon Theatre, following her fabulous performance at our Food and Culture Awards….
What have been some of the big highlights of your career?
There have been many highlights I guess partly because I have a varied ‘output’ as it were. I’m a singer, actor, lyricist, tutor, agent and producer.
Being invited to sing and teach at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory in 2012 and visiting the orphanage in Dhulikhel built by Music4Children, Oz Baildon’s extreme performing events and participating in fund raising by performing on top of Snowdon in the snow with my husband, actor Andrew Fettes.
Singing with my Musical Balloon Band – Music with a Twist! www.musicalballoonband.com for various events such as the Hayes Carnival, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital children’s ward and at the Theatre Royal Concert Halls in their Beanbag Music series, where the concept was founded, plus being part of the team that helped win a Family Arts Award. www.trch.co.uk
Also, receiving an invitation to perform for JAZZ UK’s #4Jazz Festival in Coventry by the late Heulwen Phillips – she was inspirational and supportive and understood totally the concept I have in mind. We were planning future MBB projects together before her untimely death aged 50. It was an honour to collaborate with her, albeit for a very short period.
This is a particular passion – seeing whole families, and I mean all ages, young children and older people in particular, join in the accessible percussion, singing, movement and action whilst delivering quality music that is not ‘dumbed down’ is an absolute joy and I’m also quite proud of teaching myself to balloon model too.
Our new sister project to this is Donkey Dots which will be programmed in Worcester Park at the Tasty Affair restaurant in Central Road from October. It’s a session for young children, babies and their carers incorporating all that the Musical Balloon Band has to offer but in microcosm in a safe family-friendly environment with great food and drinks. This will be Wednesday mornings from 9.15am
Another highlight was recording with the late great Humphrey Lyttelton on his Sad Sweet Songs and Crazy Rhythms album in 2005 and this was the catalyst for me crossing over into jazz and forming a producing arm under the umbrella of Vamp Jazz www.vampjazz.co.uk
I’ll be at Tasty Affair in Worcester Park monthly from the 23 September with stellar line up of jazz musicians for Sunday Lunch 12 – 3pm and prior to that back at our monthly ‘Jazz in a Broad Way’ residency at the New Wimbledon Theatre, Time & Leisure Studio. The next of these is on Sunday 16 September at 7.30pm with instrumental legends Digby Fairweather – trumpet, Dominic Ashford – guitar, Paul Morgan – bass, Clark Tracey – drums Roan Kearsey-Lawson Vibraphone and myself on vocals www.jiabw.co.uk
We are inviting people to help us to find any venue with a connection to ‘Broadway’ as we aim to perform in as many of them as possible around the world www.jiabw.co.uk. We’ll be fundraising for Music4Children and a local charity at each venue.
Teaching highlights include working as Vocal Director on the recent BBC Drama ‘Age Before Beauty’, being invited to participate in X Factor in Poland as Tatiana Okupnik’s Judges Expert (Tatiana had trained with me in the UK), being appointed this month as Director of Vocals at The Brighton Institute for Contemporary Theatre Training and I love my teaching work at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama alongside MD Wendy Gadian, so much so, I’ve been a freelance tutor there for over 11 years.
It’s wonderful to be part of a team that trains young actors for our internationally recognised performing scene and to see them emerge as future ambassadors for the profession. They are disciplined, have drive and a lot of skills.
I’m co-director of Martha Philbey a theatrical and entertainment agency and run VampReVamp producing shows and events.
How did you get started?
When I was five years old I had my first role in the nativity at The Moravian Church in Bath, Somerset. My mum Betty used to gather up a group of children from our estate to walk crocodile style to attend the 2nd Bath Girl’s Brigade and it came out of the encouragement received there. It was a great grounding and learning opportunity and the church congregation would encourage me a lot.
I was a member of The Jane Lilley Singers before leaving Bath to train at Trinity College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music.
What are some of your favourite things to sing?
Gosh, that is tricky as there is so much good material out there, I LOVE performing a cod operatic number as part of my improvising role as Sybil in the parody show I do with Ed Wells http://fawltytowersevents.co.uk/dinner-party.php and also all of my original numbers for the Musical Balloon Band / Donkey Dots.
It’s been an honour to write and perform lyrics to ‘Jeff This is For You / I’m InclYned’ composed by pianist and composer John Horler (Sir John Dankworth Band) in tribute to the late bassist Jeff Clyne. I love anything with great lyrics and good vocal range.
With my new band concept stReampunkjazz 3 we are taking standard songs like Cole Porter’s Night and Day and experimenting with them so at the moment my favourites are any that work in this context. www.veronachard.co.uk
I like some of everything really.
How do you train?
As with most performers who multi-task to make a living and also enjoy family life and friends my training regime varies depending on the demands of the day. My warm-ups are gentle, exploring my whole vocal range and I focus on releasing any body tension. My teaching is a mixture of techniques I’ve honed over the years and I adapt to the individual’s requirement so I also apply that to myself on a daily basis. The voice is a muscle so you treat it as such.
I’ve been a vegetarian and ‘bad vegan’ forever because I don’t believe we have the right to eat living creatures but I don’t preach to anyone and all of my family eat meat.
I enjoy a glass of vegan fizz or wine a couple of times a week but I don’t drink two days before a show and drink plenty of water always. I don’t smoke and advise anyone training with me not to as it’s detrimental for the voice.
It’s important to find your own individual regime and not to be too ‘precious’. I fell foul of that while training as a young singer at music college and became very stressed about what was ‘right’ and ‘correct’ but in my view now this is not a very creative approach. Emotions greatly affect the singing voice so it’s important to listen to your body and try to stay calm and thoughtful. Oh, and I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously but be serious about life.
If poorly I avoid all medications supposedly designed to aid the voice as I like to be aware always of what’s going on in there so instead drink hot water and lemon and steam with plain water.
And what else do you have in the pipeline?
I run a community choir in Wimbledon and our new home will be the Merton Arts Space at the Wimbledon Library from Monday 26 November at 1pm – 2.30pm. EVERYONE is welcome.