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Out of the bath, into the Karaoke class;FE Focus

Students are serenading each other in lecturesat Bury college. Michael Prestage takes the mic

The KARAOKE craze shows no signs of abating, so it was perhaps inevitable that a college course has been devised to help Britain's would-be pub stars.

With microphone technique, timing, diction and confidence training all part of the programme at least the singing in the pubs of Bury in Lancashire might be improving thanks to the local course.

That will be scant consolation to those who see little pleasure in lurching up to the microphone in their local on a Friday night to belt out a few well-known songs to backing tapes.

But such heresy had no place in a classroom at Bury college last Monday. Twelve students were being put through their paces by cabaret singer Paula Clark, who spent 10 years on the club circuit, trained at Leeds College of Music and is now completing a postgraduate certificate in education.

She devised the four-week course that will end with the students performing before an audience - hopefully in a local pub - and she says that the vocal skills and confidence training could apply as much to classical music as to karaoke.

"This is mainly for anyone who enjoys music, even if it is just singing in the bath. The students will learn a lot and have a good time, and for some it might help them become professional singers.

"Karaoke is the only chance a lot of people get to sing, and a lot want a few tips on how to do it well. The students here are taking it more seriously. One thing I tell them is that alcohol and good singing don't mix," Paula said.

Geoff Simpson is a headteacher who sings in a folk group and joined the course to develop voice technique and improve his performance. He had never sung karaoke, but after the first week was singing Leo Sayer's When I Need Love in his local pub.

"Popular music is popular because it connects with the general public and karaoke is a modern version of the pub sing-song," he said. "I enjoyed having a go and you do need other people around you to give you a boost."

Stephen Jeffrico described himself as a karaoke fanatic. "For the last eight years wherever there has been a karaoke night I have tried to be there. I've a friend who puts on karaoke and I tend to get up and sing the first few numbers to get the night going."

He regards it as a hobby and hopes the course will help improve his performances and perhaps give him the chance to take his singing further.

Janice Crowley, head of arts at the college, said: "Courses like this are important because they widen participation in adult education to members of the community who haven't considered full-time courses."

She said the college had in the past attempted to put on courses in singing technique, but there was little take-up. "Since we tailored the course to improving your karaoke the response has been good. Colleges need to give people what they want."

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