“The human voice needs no ‘training’ – it is already there, finished, and perfect as an entity sounding in an ideal world. What it waits for is – liberation!”
From the Book “Uncovering the Voice“
Valborg Werbeck-Svärdström was born in the North of Sweden. Her childhood was strongly influenced by her deep connection to the beautiful Nordic nature. Her singing abilities were remarkable from a very young age. She was a singing “wonder child”.
When she was ten years old, she moved with her family to Stockholm and started taking singing classes with Alice Tegnér. She made her first public performance at the age of eleven. She then studied at the Conservatory in Stockholm, made her opera debut when she was only 21 and got immediately an offer to join the Swedish Royal Opera, which she accepted. She was known as “the new Jenny Lind” – the Swedish nightingale. She then became an international star and gave concerts in many European countries. In 1906, Valborg got married to the German writer and musician Luis Micheal Julius Werbeck, and moved to Germany, to Hamburg.
In 1908 Mrs Werbeck met Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was her source of inspiration and support while she started to feel dissatisfaction with her singing career and wanted to connect deeper with the spiritual side of singing. At that time she suffered from voice problems, in spite of being trained by experienced teachers. At one point she completely lost her singing voice and had to start building it from scratch.
This experience gave her a new determination to explore better methods of voice development. She kept contact with her mentor Rudolf Steiner and discussed her work with him until his death. She also started to experiment with therapeutic singing. Her method was later passed on and developed by Ita Wegman.
In 1938, ten years after her husband’s death, she published her book, “Uncovering the Voice” (German original “Der Schule der Stimmenthüllung” –The School of Uncovering the Voice). Her singing school, founded in Hamburg under the same name, was taken up by Wilhelm Döfler but due to the war the school was soon closed.
After the war, Mrs Werbeck focused fully on her therapeutic singing work. Walborg Werbeck-Svärdström died in 1972, at the age 92 in Bad Boll-Eckwälden.
Today her school of singing is taught in Brazil, Croatia, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Croatia, United States and United Kingdom.
The Core Principles Of Werbeck Method
The voice needs to be uncovered not produced. There are three phases in the process of uncovering the voice:
- Directional Phase: learning to “place the sound”, based on pharyngeal NG tone
- Expansion Phase: learning to open fully the sound channels and expand the sphere of sound created from the body.
- Reflective Phase: reflecting the sound as sent from the cosmos through the solar plexus.
How I Use It
As I am not a certified Werbeck teacher, I would like to mention that those interested only in Werbeck singing can find great resources on the Internet. I use the following principles in my voice coaching:
1. Natural Breathing (effortless breathing instead of struggling to get enough air)
2. Uncovering once authentic voice by directing it to the one true resonant place with help of NG
3. Integrating the speech and vocal function into One (learning how to pour the sound into the forms of words)
4. Singing without pressure and with freedom as the voice is carried on the NG sound which is always present
5. Appreciating the gift of human voice and re-connecting with the original purpose of singing = to create a unity consciousness through the sound (in contrary with the performance-based singing that can increase the sense of separation)
The Limitations… Up To You
This school of singing has certainly many limitations for people and teachers who are mainly interested in vocal achievement, in the external effects of singing and see the human voice as a little organic machine. Also the singers who aren’t interested in the inherited unique quality of their voices cannot find anything “useful” in this method. Still, this method can be very helpful to resolve many physical and psychological blockages but requires a deeper look into what singing is about. Therefore the Werbeck courses are regularly joined by all sorts of singers and non-singers. When I joined a Werbeck course in Prague, I sang with people who did singing only for joy and well-being and I felt blessed to be part of the group. So there are no real limitations of this method but for some people it might be hard to get out of their limited way of thinking when it comes to singing and life in general. It requires an opened mind!