My favourite things: musician and vocal coach Narin Gylman
- Credit: Archant
Narin Gylman is a singer, songwriter and musician based in Highgate. She has worked as a vocal coach for popstars including Boy George, Mel C and Leona Lewis, as well as countless West End stars, written a book, recorded three albums and performed at venues across the world.
Highgate’s home. It must have been 1983 when I came here and, aside from a few years in Dartmouth Park (and we call that Highgate anyway!) and six years in France, I’ve been here ever since. I’ve done concerts upstairs at the Gatehouse, at Highgate Scientific; I love playing in Highgate and I’d love to do more concerts, even like they do in France where someone hires a grand piano for the evening and everyone gets dressed up and goes to hear some wonderful music. There are lovely venues in Highgate.
We’ve been in this flat for about two years. The nicest thing about it is the light, the balcony’s south-facing so if there’s sun in London we get it and we sit out and meditate. Working with the classical composers has quite a similar effect to meditation.
I’ve been with Tom since 1991 and we got married in 1997. We met through the singer Lynsey de Paul at a seminar. We have the same birth date, we’re both Taureans.
Narin Gylman is my songwriting and stage name; I’m known around here as Janet Edwards and that’s the name I do my vocal training under too. I’ve worked with Boy George, Leona Lewis, Mel C, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn. I ran courses in the West End which were for anybody who wanted to walk in off the street. I had a lad who came in on rollerskates who said ‘I can’t sing but I’m going to learn to because one day I’m going to be in Starlight Express. I bumped into him eight years later and he said ‘I did it! I was in it!’
You may also want to watch:
Narin will be performing at The Pheasantry, 152 King’s Road, SW3 4UT on June 7 at 8.30. Tickets are £15, jazzfm.com/events
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I started playing the piano as far back as I can remember, I had my first lesson when I was six years old. From the age of 13 I was being trained by Michael Kruszynski, the Polish concert pianist. I also had organ lessons and composition lessons with Richard Steinitz.
In the late 1970s I was accompanying the actress Jennie Linden on spinet and piano. We did a concert in Reading and Andrew Lloyd Weber came along and asked us to look at a new musical he was working on. So we did the first run through of the musical that turned out to be Cats at Lancaster University, as a try out a year or two before he actually did it in the West End.
Biot in the south of France, where we lived for six years, spurred me to take time out from the West End, and gave me time to write my own music.
The village is on the outskirts of the Léger museum which was very atmospheric and very international, not very British. People there all loved the music. Our neighbours would say “Would you mind opening the windows so we can hear it better?” That’s when you know you’re not in London! They make special glass in Biot with bubbles in and when we were leaving the whole community clubbed together and bought it for us.
I wear this hat all the time because it’s warm. I bought it about 20 years ago. It got lost once in Soho at a meeting but they returned it to me. A hat does change how you feel, it changes everything. I did once nearly lose my underslip on the Royal Festival Hall stage. They have a man that magically opens the door when you walk off stage. I’d been running around before the show making sure everyone was happy with the tempo. I’d been wearing a short underslip under whatever day clothes I had on and I didn’t have time to get myself ready properly so I was still wearing the slip under my long dress. As I came off stage my short underslip dropped onto the ground at my feet and the curtain guy said “My god, I’ve never seen anything like that before!”
Pen and ink drawing by Deanna Petherbridge
Deanna’s drawings are unbelievable. The one above my piano (not pictured) depicts a Hindu temple. Deanna was here a few weeks ago. She was part of an exhibition at the British Museum in London. We got blinds put in because the room is south-facing we don’t want them to fade. When we moved into Dartmouth Park together I said I wanted the picture of the temple by my piano because it reminds me of St Paul’s in a way, and because I was a church organist from a very young age it feels right. The Hindu connection is also very important to us because we’ve got Indian family. My grandmother was born in the Himalayas. I went on a backpacking trip on my own up there to see where she was born.
Both my husband and I are dowsers. The Earth’s crust has got fissures and so on, which do affect us. It’s not a good idea to sleep over geopathic stress. It can be quite seriously disruptive to the health. The crystals are very lovely and they also help with the Earth’s vibrations. We do have a lot more but over the years they’ve dispersed a bit. Tom and I were asked in to dowse a farm where the cows weren’t milking. We went in, dowsed the land, it was quite clear that there was a lot of bad energy around it so they moved the cows and a few weeks later they told us they were milking again. My husband was an architect in a big City firm but he was also very interested in sacred geometry. He stepped out of it because he was no longer designing buildings and he wanted to explore other parts of life. He’s had, like, three lifetimes.
I’ve written one book: ‘Choosing to Heal: Surviving the breast cancer system’. If somebody’s got a problem with their voice, it’s not huge and sometimes the solution can be a hair’s breadth away. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer I had a mastectomy and I had one shot of chemotheraphy and I knew that if I kept going with it I’d be like the singing teacher who just pushes and pushes without helping anybody. Chemo can work but the attitude’s got to be right as well. I found the right people to help me on the journey working holistically, I ended up in Bavaria with a scientist doctor in a lovely, light house, like this one. I stayed for eight weeks. It was totally regenerating and I decided I had got to write about it.
I now give talks to doctors about how to communicate with people by understanding themselves and understanding the individual in front of them. When you go out on stage you experience heightened awareness and it’s quite a similar feeling when you walk into a doctor’s surgery.
The voice will tell me an awful lot about someone, even on the phone. I’ve had somebody sit singing and said ‘How long have you had the pain in your back?’ They were astounded, they’d never told me they were suffering back pain. Everybody’s got a voice and somewhere in there’s a beautiful sound. You have to find that beautiful sound and make them hear it and bring it out.