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October 1, 2005

Deaf artist's show signs the divas

From: BBC News - UK - Oct 1, 2005

Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website disability affairs correspondent

Although a relatively new phenomenon, sign-song interpretation is rapidly growing in popularity - so much so that some of the music channels are now having videos signed by a small group of specialists.
One of them, Caroline Parker, has just opened a show in London in order to bring signed songs to a wider audience.

Parker remembers buying magazines containing song lyrics and standing in front of a mirror, as a child, with a microphone wishing that she could sing.

"At people's parties - when everyone was dancing - I used to sign along to the music," she told the BBC News website.

"Pretty soon I started to get bookings."

She has been signing songs professionally for 20 years, and says the essential thing is to do much more than translating the words.

"You have to look at the song, what it's saying, the emotions, what the singer is trying to convey," she said.

"If you get inside the character of the performer it makes the whole thing so much more interesting."

She says the difference between a pub karaoke performer and one of the great stars is what they put into the song, how they present it and what they wear.

"You have to add the pzazz - and I think we owe it to the deaf audience to have a bit of glamour as well."

In her new show Parker plays the part of Sue Graves - a shy and retiring undertaker who transforms herself by night into Tammy Frescati, the interpreter of her favourite divas.

Playing timid Sue, and adapting her signing style to that of her character, was a major challenge for Parker.

"She signs songs differently to the way I do - she's much more subtle than me in her sign language."

The piece is essentially a musical monologue in which Sue tells the audience about her life, interspersed with numbers from the women who are her inspiration - artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield, Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston.

The interpretation of songs - like Old-Fashioned Girl, My Heart Will Go On, I Will Always Love You and I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten - is a graceful, sensual ballet performed by Parker's hands and arms.

The performance seems to cast a spell on the audience, whether they are hearing or not.

"I make music accessible to deaf people and signing accessible to hearing people - you don't have to hear music, you can feel it and you can see it," said Parker.

Signs of a Diva is at the Drill Hall in central London until October 16.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/10/01 10:17:13 GMT