Blood-curdling screams emanate from a church hall – followed by the sound of raucous laughter. Alison Eade is holding a workshop for people trying to find their voices.

“I believe everyone can sing. You’re born into this world being able to sing. Children of one, two, three, maybe up to six – or seven – years old sing. But after that something happens and people start to think and believe they can’t do it.”

Alison is a vibrant, energetic lady with vivid red hair and a warm, intimate manner which puts her class at ease. She is not one to stand on dignity: those noises require silly faces to be pulled and one of her secret weapons to get her singers to locate their lower stomach muscles to gain a top note is the ‘constipated push’ – which she doesn’t balk at demonstrating.

I meet her following a rehearsal for one of two Christmas concerts to be performed by a choir which has formed out of the workshops she has held this year in Bembridge, Totland and Newport. “It was so cold we ended up doing All That Jazz” she says, and bursts into ‘I’m gonna rouge my knees and roll my stockings down!’ while performing the rolling action. “Even the men were doing it, really throwing themselves into it!

She positively delights in such freedom from inhibition. Yet there is great wisdom behind her apparent frivolity. She draws a comparison between our culture and that of Africa, where she has spent time with some tribes. “Nobody sings flat, nobody sings sharp, they just sing. In church it’s not just the choir which sings in perfect harmony.”

It is her purpose to find out what happens to us in the West, and why. Alison is from Cornwall, and her mother was from the Hebrides – so she has the music of the Celt oozing from every pore. “Mother used to sing all the time, lovely lilting Hebridean songs, whose lyrics and music haunted me.” School choir, chapel choir – music was inevitably part of her life, but it wasn’t until after her son was born that she sought singing lessons. One exceptional teacher was Robert Bowman, who had sung at Covent Garden in the ‘50s with the likes of Maria Callas. “It was he who gave me the first clue about the voice. I’d thought I was a contralto, but he was convinced I was a “dramatic soprano”. One day I was struggling to reach a top note, and he told me this tale about a famous soprano he was working with at the Garden. He’d asked how she got those top notes? “My darling,’ she said, ‘I just open my mouth and scream.’”

That gave Alison permission to scream, a sound she then learnt to temper into something musical – which expanded her range. Later, she was taught by a counter tenor with whom she performed duets, so her vocal range expanded downwards too. As a result her musical life has been exceptionally varied, moving from folk, to opera to cabaret.

And so she had found her voice. But it was her “day job” which taught her about the things which stop so many of us using our voices. Having worked briefly in banking, and then in newspapers, she moved into the training world where she met psychologist Lynda Field, who was writing a book about self-esteem. “We were running workshops for ex-offenders, working with a group of disenfranchised young men. One said “What’s the point?” – and I sang that phrase from South Pacific: ‘You gotta have a dream. If you never have a dream, then you’ll never have a dream come true.’ As a result quite a lot of young men started to write down what their barriers were, and their goals – and what they needed to do to fire the goals. It was also a subject for Lynda’s next book.”

So working with Linda, Alison learnt a lot about how we think about ourselves and how our thinking gets in the way. For men, lack of confidence can be acute. “The problem stems from their teenage years when they change from being a boy soprano. We don’t consider what sort of trauma that brings to a young man. I don’t think we do anything to support that in our society, they are ridiculed, which clams them up completely.”

She is euphoric when she sees someone begin to ‘find their voice’. The workshops ease people into singing with ‘easy listening’ songs. “We had a lovely gentleman in the Newport workshop who really struggled. Well, we were singing Love Changes Everything – and at that note at the end, this gentleman went whoosh! He got it bang on with such power. I said ‘Charles, where did that note come from?’ and he said ‘I just constipated!’”

Many people she comes across were once told they sang flat. “They’ve carried this belief all their adult life, but are longing to do something about it.”

Hence the peculiar noises, which are designed to make people feel the sound, not just hear it – and gradually through tone matching to get the notes in tune. “We do all the silly exercise – making sounds, exploring the spaces and the places where we can produce those sounds.” So by screaming you find you have to place the sound in the roof of the mouth; in growling, you find you are aware of the vibration created as you drop the sound towards the chest. She gets people to rub their cheeks to feel the vibrations, then as their hands move back across the ears they have a heightened awareness of the noise they are making. “Once they are singing I get them to cup their hands around their ears or place their hands around their throat, to make them aware of the feeling they have when making those sounds.”

Since she moved to the Island in 2001 Alison has been a life force in the musical and theatrical world. She produces a show at the Medina theatre every year, which she plans and casts herself. “I’m a loner. I don’t like committees. I just go and do it. It’s a bit scary, because once I’ve hired the theatre then I’ve got to do something about it.” This year featured Sondheim’s Weekend in the Country, a challenging piece with five or six people singing against each other, all with stories to tell. Each year’s production reflects her incredibly diverse musical experience and her deeply diverse musical tastes; “I love Puccini because of the emotion he expresses: but then I love Neil Diamond for the same reason.”

The workshops, as well as enabling people to find their long-lost voices, have benefitted the communities in other ways: Totland church hall received a large cheque, enabling a face lift to befit the many theatrical events it stages.

And Alison has a dream: “I would like to see the whole of the Isle of Wight singing at Carisbrooke Castle in the open air. I would hand out sheets with the words, and I would conduct, and they could bring a picnic and maybe there’d be fireworks. I think there’s a whole wealth of people who just want to sing. I say it doesn’t matter if you’re not wonderful, if you get it wrong, if you make a mistake or the sound is awful, but I just want you to get something from it!”

Alison Eade’s workshop choir will perform at St Mary’s, Cowes, on 13th Dec 7.30pm; at the church hall, Totland, on 14th Dec, Sunday 2.30pm.

For details about workshops or singing lessons contact Alison Eade, 01983 282933.