West End singer Connie Fisher may joke that she now sounds like Marge Simpson from The Simpsons but she hasn’t let that hold her back.
The singer, who found fame on the TV talent show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, discovered she had congenital sulcus vocalis in 2011.
The condition, which means the singer has holes in her vocal cords, forced her to pull out of her dream West End role of Maria in The Sound of Music.
But she bounced back and has continued her love and passion for the stage by performing in productions such as the musical comedy Wonderful Town.
She has also found a new strength and talent for television and has been busy presenting for Songs of Praise and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World and will be working on Proms in the Park in September.
She said she found a new confidence and a new identity as the presenting work increases.
Connie, who spends most of her time at her home in Barry, said: “I’m not singing as much as I used to but I still love it. I can’t sing the high chords as I used to but my passion has not wavered at all.”
She said her confidence is increasing and she hopes the audience accepts her voice.
Connie, 30, said: “When I played Ruth Sherwood in Wonderful Town I used that character voice. It helped me deal with how my voice was and the audience accepted and applauded it.”
She said: “I am still working. I sound like Marge Simpson every day because it affects my voice generally.
“Building up my confidence to go back on stage is a massive step, any knock can lower our confidence and when your inhabited you don’t give your best performance.
“I can completely identify with anyone who has lost their confidence for any reason. We’ve all had stage fright. I once forgot the words to Memory from Cats.”
She added: “On television every night I’m nervous and shaking like a leaf but I continue to do it. The other day I fluffed my link but I was smiling. It’s about being a professional.”
Connie said speaking and singing now requires more thought and that she has to take great care of her voice.
She said: “I always thought I had a capability with my chords but I was always very fragile and had to look after it. Now even more so. So I have to wake my vocal chords up by warming them up more than other people have to.”
This means an end to the after show parties and not drinking alcohol if she has to work the next day.
She said: “I think you have to be professional, you can’t be up to 3am after a show. It may be that I have to leave the bar a little earlier than everyone else. I don’t go to parties and things like that. I have to be very strict with myself, get an early night and can’t eat certain things that cause acid reflux.”
But Connie remains positive.
She said: “There is hope in the future for my condition. It’s a condition that I was born with – it probably won’t change. Maybe a gel which is being developed over the next five years could help, who knows.”
Connie is now using her knowledge and experience to help and inspire others by setting up her own musical theatre academy.
This will be an eight-day training course on August 3 to 10 at Cardiff’s Wonderland studios for aspiring performers.
It will be open to anyone aged between 14 and 25 who is aiming for a career in musical theatre and will end with a showcase on the last day.
Masterclasses will also be led by Welsh West End star Caroline Sheen and the director of award winning musical Matilda Matthew Warchus.
Connie said: “For some people, Wales feels like a million miles away from the West End but we’re bringing the talent to Wales. I’m really lucky to have met these people.”
Connie said she will be on hand and said the course will be full on but will be “thoroughly entertaining” at all times.
She said: “We can’t teach you everything in eight days but we’ll be taking people interested in musical theatre and giving them a flavour of what musical theatre would be like.”
For more information, see www.theconniefisheracademy.co.uk