Vocal coaches lend their skills to patients

Vocal coaches Kerry Boyle and Cathy Robinson. They are pictured in front of a grand piano.
Vocal coaches Kerry Boyle, left, and Cathy Robinson

Published on 4 August 2021

Patients are singing the praises of vocal coaches who are helping them recover from Covid-19 and other serious illnesses.

Kerry Boyle and Cathy Robinson have volunteered their skills to help members of a support group run by East Kent Hospitals staff for people who have spent time in intensive care.

They are drawing on singing techniques to help people improve their breathing, and tackle breathlessness that is often a lasting effect of coronavirus.

Lucy Mummery, critical care follow-up specialist nurse, who runs the group, said the sessions were having real benefits for patients.

She said: “The feedback has been fantastic. Everyone enjoys the session and it gives them something different to try and techniques they can use and develop outside the group.

“We are really thankful to Kerry and Cathy for giving their time to us so generously.”

Kerry, who runs Canterbury Ladies Choir, Canterbury Girls’ Choir and The Canterbury Voices, and also offers singing lessons, said they were delighted to be able to help.

She said: “So many of us have felt helpless throughout the pandemic so to be able to do something that has helped people has been really rewarding.

“As singers, breathing is such a lot of what we do and sharing our techniques has been wonderful.

“it’s lovely to be able to work with people and have some positive impact.”

The sessions started after some of Kerry’s singing students fell ill at the start of the pandemic. One had problems with her breathing afterwards, which she worked through with Kerry in online lessons.

Kerry works on breath control with choir members during rehearsals and has carried on with this approach during online choir sessions throughout the pandemic.

Choir members suggested starting video breathing classes alongside the choir rehearsals as they knew of people who were experiencing breathlessness after recovering from Covid-19 and would benefit from support. The Zoom sessions involved participants from the Canterbury area and beyond and featured a range of breathing and vocal exercises.

For the support group, Kerry leads exercises helping people learn to use their diaphragm and extend their inhale and exhale, while Cathy then helps patients use the techniques while using their voice.

Kerry said: “We heard singers from the English National Opera were offering breathing classes and we realised we might have skills that we could put to good use.

“It’s been really interesting to work with the group and to hear how they are putting the techniques into practice outside of the sessions.

“They do find it hard work but that means they are stretching themselves and improving.”

The groups also include physiotherapy exercises, and a chance to discuss shared experiences and issues.