The Alchemy of Voice by Stewart Pearce

There is a traditional story told of an African tribe who, upon the birth of a new baby, gather to sing a fresh new song to celebrate the child’s birth. It includes the memories of the birth, the child’s family and clan ties and the particular time of year and celestial happenings at that moment — in short, the song becomes the unique story of that particular individual.

In later years, should the individual stray from the path of “wellness”, either through sickness or criminal behavior or mental illness, the entire tribe will gather round and sing back to the child his own unique song to remind him of his original identity and to sing him back to health. In The Alchemy of Voice, Stewart Pearce has captured beautifully the concept of each of us having our own “signature note” that can guide us back to health, empowerment, and well-being.

Stewart Pearce’s professional background as Master of Voice at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Head of Voice at the Drama Centre London have given him years of experience in helping others to find that “signature note.” Along the way, he has given workshops, consulted for large companies, and helped people in private sessions — including actors, politicians and other celebrities. It is this experience in helping people to find their authentic voice, by overcoming their fears, their “blocks” or their issues from the past, that led him to write this book so that he could help more people. Throughout the book, the major points are enlivened with anecdotes that are both moving and illuminating.

The author’s own fascinating childhood experiences may have led him to an early appreciation of the power of sound and voice. Pearce had “synaesthesia” a form of sensory “cross-wiring”, as a child — in this case, the type where you hear a sound and see a color at the same time. This, in turn, left him enchanted with the human voice and the differences he could “see” from one voice to another. As a consequence, the author was late to speak aloud or read, and when he did finally read, the printed word did not hold the same power for him as the spoken word. Indeed, one of Pearce’s important points in this book is how we as a society have become too enamored of the printed word, too analytical or removed from the power of the spoken word.

As Pearce reminds us, we know the power of sound — it can shatter glass, move us to tears, or anger, or laughter — we just need to be reminded of this power. According to Pearce, it’s the same for finding our authentic voice — it’s in there — we just need to remember that “signature note” that is ours. The author makes a strong case for the various ways that we lose that authenticity, through blocked emotions, strong criticism in the past, societal pressures, etc. These factors lead us to don what the author calls a “voice mask” or disconnection between our spoken word and our feeling state.

Further, Pearce argues that in this disconnected, contrived state, we lose our power and quite possibly our health at the same time. Reconnecting with that powerful authentic tone can re-balance us emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. The author lists several physical disabilities that he has helped others to overcome through voice and sound work — among them are asthma, allergies, tumors, diabetes, hyperactivity, sterility and more. On an emotional level he has helped others to clear anger, fear, grief and other emotions that were blocking proper speaking and breathing.

Pearce’s years of experience both acting and coaching will benefit the reader in many ways. The Alchemy of Voice includes several helpful exercises by which the reader may regain their own authentic voice, improve their breathing and fine-tune their public speaking. There are many wonderful tips for both the novice and the accomplished public speaker. Following Stewart Pearce’s guidelines for speaking from truth, intention, and the heart can take the reader to a whole new level of charismatic communication, whether it is for public or personal discourse.

The Alchemy of Voice of course, captures the author’s conviction of the power of voice and sound to transmute energy, like the old alchemists who transformed base metals into gold. Written from a broad-based holistic perspective, the author is deeply in tune with our own innate ability to heal ourselves on several levels. The book gives historical examples from many diverse cultures and religions, reminding the reader that this is truly an ancient, well-documented power that lies within all of us. The author tells us that the voice should be treated as a powerful gift — and offered up with happiness and joy. In his enthusiasm for his subject and the people that he helps, Stewart Pearce has offered us a fine gift himself, in The Alchemy of Voice.

Since 1998 Stewart has been the Resident Master of Voice at ‘Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’ and in 2001 became the Head of Voice at the ‘Drama Centre London’. He facilitates Master Class processes internationally and has taught in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark and extensively throughout the USA. Stewart regularly coaches at the ‘Chicago Shakespeare Theater’, voice directs the ‘Rutgers University Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe’, which was solely created for the classical training of the US Conservatory Acting Student, and coaches for premier theatre companies such as “Classic Stage Ireland” based in Dublin.

Clients have included: Maria Aitken, Minnie Driver, Kathryn Hunter, Josie Lawrence, Julia Ormond, Vanessa Redgrave, Simon Callow, Jack Davenport, Jerome Flynn and Mark Rylance. In addition, Stewart is a consultant to the international corporate market as a Master of Presentation, dealing with many aspects of the Public Speaking process. This includes Stress Management, Presence & Vocal Gravitas and Persuasive Presentation. Having experienced leading spiritual teaching and empowerment models, Stewart brings creative self~development issues to the arena of personal presentation. Clients have included: L`Oreal, BT, ITN World News, McKinsey & Co, Merrill Lynch, WPP Programmes and the LONDON 2012 Olympic bid.

Stewart’s seminal text ‘The Alchemy of Voice’ is published in 2005. He regularly appears in the media addressing the issues of Voice and Persona as powerful expressions of human integrity. (Biographical information from Alchemy Of Voice )

by Cheryl Shainmark
Stewart was born in London, England, having trained as an Actor Teacher worked in Repertory Theatre. In 1980 his practice as a Voice Coach began, teaching under the auspices of Cicely Berry at the 'Guildhall School of Music & Drama', and in 1981 Stewart became the Head of Voice at the prestigious 'Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art', continuing until 1998. During this period he also worked pervasively throughout the Theatre industry, as Senior Voice Tutor at the 'Actors Centre London' and as a coach with major companies such as the 'Actors Touring Company'. (Bio continued below article)