A trained singer who had her voice box removed due to throat cancer has was able to surprise her sister with a beautiful rendition of “Silent Night” – thanks to a little help from actress and singer, Martine McCutcheon.
Tanja Bage, 41, underwent a laryngectomy – the removal of her voice box – in 2020, leaving her with a very different voice to the one she had previously.
And lockdown meant the trained theatre performer, and mum-of-two, from Leeds, was unable to see her sister Mia, to whom she is incredibly close, during her treatment and through her early recovery.
But Tanja performed a Christmas miracle when she paid Mia a surprise visit and sang her sister's favourite carol, “Silent Night” on her doorstep – with the aid of Martine's vocals, high speed 5G from Vodafone, and a cutting-edge smart instrument, called an Electrospit.
Love Actually star Martine McCutcheon’s live vocal sounds were transmitted from a studio to Mia’s house and into the Electrospit, which Tanja wore around her neck, allowing her to shape Martine’s sounds into her sister’s favourite carol.
Thanks to the speed of the 5G, there was no delay in Martine’s vocals reaching Tanja – with the duo performing in perfect unison.
Tanja, who wanted to give her sister a surprise she would never forget, said: “The hardest thing about this (having my voice box removed) was the loss of my singing voice – and although I do still have a voice, it’s not the one I was born with.
“My sister and I have always been very close, and she has always been my biggest fan.
“Being able to surprise her on her doorstep and perform in this whole new way felt really special – I never thought I’d get to perform again in this way.”
Martine’s vocal sounds – the harmonies that provided the tune to Silent Night – were transmitted from the recording studio to the headphones, which Tanja was wearing around her neck.
As the vocal samples travelled through Tanja’s throat, she was able to shape the sounds into the words of Silent Night, and the duo performed magically, in perfect unison.
Martine McCutcheon said: “I have simply been blown away by how 5G and tech can be used in this way.
“To be able to make Tanja and Mia’s Christmas super magical has been a real privilege for me.
“I’ve been so inspired learning about the laryngectomy community, and hope this project will educate the wider public on how to help remove any stigmas those with diverse voices may face.”
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The key to the brilliant timing of the performance was Vodafone’s superfast 5G network, which meant there was no delay in Martine’s vocals reaching Tanja – allowing them to stay perfectly in sync with each other, despite their different locations.
A spokesman for Vodafone, which facilitated the duet with Martine, said: “We’re always looking for ways in which we can use our technology to make a difference.
“Using the power of our 5G network can help achieve things that were thought impossible before.
“Obviously, this is very early days for this project – but by working with companies like Sound Voice, who identified this use of the Electrospit, we’re excited to continue to explore what else might be possible.”
And Dr. Thomas Moors, ear, nose, and throat doctor with a special interest in voice therapy and rehabilitation, added: “Losing your voice can be a devastating and depersonalising experience.
“Voice goes hand-in-hand with identity, and I’ve seen first-hand how challenging it can be to find a new balance and means of self-expression.
“The laryngectomy community is a small and scattered group, around 8,000 in the UK – easily overlooked in our society, and at risk of social isolation.
“Working with Vodafone has been exciting – it is the first telecom company we know of that is invested in helping out a group of people who are challenged on multiple levels in their communication.
“It shows that tech developments can help us on our journey, and the power of 5G means we can connect and communicate with people like we never thought.”
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