The other night, Veronika and I went to a gig. It was a Dire Straits tribute act. Whereas Veronika’s a big fan of Dire Straits, I don’t know many of their songs. I quite like maybe three or four of those that I do know. The band we saw is called The Straits UK. I suppose the alternative would have been Dire, so I reckon they made the right choice with that name. Guess what, despite me not having great expectations,
it turned out to be a Dickens of a good night. There’s something special about live shows if they’re done with energy, talent and a dollop of professionalism. And The Straits had all that in abundance.
At first glance, most of the six guys in the band looked like they wouldn’t have been out of place on a bowling green. I’m no spring chicken myself, so this isn’t a case of a younger bloke taking the Mick; and after a few minutes of watching and listening, I was wishing that I had their energy levels and could play an instrument half as well as them. And they kept up their pace and commitment through the two and a quarter hours they performed. I loved the way they complemented and seemed to enjoy each others’ talents. They truly were a team; and they were given a standing ovation at the end.
It set me thinking about my own performing careers. I acted at the Mercury Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand for nine years. I loved being at that place, and one of the main reasons was because it felt like being part of an extended family. Most of us were there, on and off, for a lot of that time. As in most families, there was the odd bust-up and quite a few tantrums.
But there was also a lot of love and affection.
Eventually, I felt the need to move on; and I made a big change, into presenting on a commercial radio station.
What a difference that was. I was, loosely, still part of a team: but it was more like being a bowler or batter in a cricket side than being in a football or rugby team. I suppose I could go back to when I jokingly likened The Straits UK to lawn bowlers (who are on their own in the singles matches).
On the radio, I was working either after or before somebody – but not really with them. It took me a long time to get used to the feeling of isolation.
So what’s this got to do with celebrants, or voice-and-communication training? Well, I’m sure you’ve worked it out now that I’ve mentioned the word celebrant. Compared to a theatre company, The Straits UK, or a football team, a celebrant is The Lone Ranger – and even he had Tonto and Silver! (What’s the closest thing to silver? …The Lone Ranger’s bottom!)
The nearest a celebrant gets to being in a band is that they’re what used to be known as a one-man band. In fact, given that in a ceremony a celebrant is usually saying nice things about people and honouring them, they could claim to be a one-man-tribute band.
If you’re a celebrant, you know what all the facets are of what you do. But in case you’re not, here’s a rundown of what’s involved: To do this work, you need good listening skills; creative writing is another essential component; a pleasant voice will stand you in good stead; and in some ways, possibly the most important of all – you need to have outstanding communication skills.
There’s even more to it than that. Think of an imaginary celebrant, going by the name of Bessie Williams. She’s just finished a brilliant funeral ceremony in South Shields, Tyne and Wear. To the surprise of the people gathered in the crematorium, on the video screen behind her, lo and behold, just like in a movie, come the credits.
Original Idea: Bessie Williams
Researcher: Bessie Williams
Script: Bessie Williams
Hair and Makeup: Bessie Williams
Costume: Bessie Williams
Performed By: Bessie Williams
Director: Bessie Williams
There’s a heck of a lot of work that goes into a ceremony put together and presented by a top-notch celebrant. Maybe 10 hours for a funeral, and 20 for a wedding. So really, the good celebrants should be paid billions! Without them, the wedding and funeral business would be in Dire Straits!
Paul Robinson is a vastly experienced performer and coach. He’s been, or still is, an actor, radio presenter, singer, voiceover artist, compère and ventriloquist. He takes the facets of these performing arts which relate to voice and communication training, and blends them into a potent but easy-to-follow method. He trains celebrants and other professionals from around the world. https://paulrobinsonvoicecoaching.co.uk/