Sending lots of singing sparkles to you, wherever you are and however you're feeling at this moment on the Coronacoaster ride. At this time of year in the UK, we would usually be gathering with friends and family to enjoy the tricks and treats of the festive season. As we face a second lockdown with many different levels of loss, it is absolutely understandable to be experiencing grief, anger, anxiety and disorientation. So here's a little offering to help us sparkle in the dark.
1. Connect with Contagious Joy and Laughter Joy is a fundamental part of our being, of our psyche, because it’s just such a WOW experience. - Joe Hoare, Laughing Yogi,Vocal Revolution Zoomcast We've all seen how the infectious burbles of a baby laughing can get everyone smiling. Humour is an incredibly contagious tool in tough times. I've long wanted to share the wisdom of my inspirational friends and colleagues and lockdown has given me the space to do it - as we've all now become Zoom Video Stars, I've created a monthly Vocal Revolution Zoomcast. My first guest is Laughing Yogi, Joe Hoare, because laughter, as they say, is the shortest distance between two people and we all laugh in the same language. Do enjoy chuckling along with us on the video, where Joe shares his top tips for staying connected to joy in tough times and shines light on how there's been lots of the right sort of contagiousness from some of the wrong sort of contagiousness.
2. Be Guided by Shining Lights We had to play because the Red Cross came three times a year. The Germans wanted to show its representatives that the situation of the Jews in Theresienstadt was good. Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn't come they would have died long before. As we would have. - Alice Herz-Sommer In times of great challenge, we can draw solace from the wisdom of shining lights who endured, survived and found a way to alchemise great suffering. Listening to their voices can bring us hope, encouragement and guidance. On our Zoomcast, Joe told the inspirational story of pianist Alice Herz Sommer, who describes above how music supported her to find joy and survive in the horrors of the Holocaust. Alice lived to the age of 110, and her wisdom has been shared in many documentaries where she says: Life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything is a present.
3. Groovy Gratitude Celebrates Everything! Stop and smell the flowers And lose it in sweet music and dance with me Cause there is beauty in the world - Macy Gray, Beautiful World Gratitude is an essential part of any self-care toolkit and helps us celebrate ourselves, our lives and each other. During lockdown I learned to treasure every small victory, every beautiful thing - seeing a friend in person is now a five star deluxe treat and autumnal walks are a technicolour feast. As music can help tune us into thankfulness, here's my Gratitude Grooves Playlist. What and who would be on your sparkly Gratitude Playlist? As the word compliment comes from Latin meaning to fill up or complete, who can you uplift and celebrate by gifting them a big thank you? Together, we can sparkle in the dark and spread contagious joy, wisdom, laughter and gratitude. Thank you for being sparkly you!
Come Sing and Sparkle! All sessions are taking place online via Zoom in November Singers Salon - Being the Song - develop your special solo singing sparkle - 6 Weds eveningsstarting Nov 4th Creative Coaching - claim the joy, power and magic of your voice. Choirs - connect with sparkly singing communities Sunday Session - Chai Day- November 22nd 3-4.30pm - dedicated to helping end gender violence - bring a cup of chai, poem, story, song or reflection. Donations welcome to The Circle. More info on my website
Thank you so much for staying tuned! Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly Lots of love, virtual hugs and good singing vibes
Shine Up Your Voice This Autumn Shine Bright Like a Diamond We're beautiful like diamonds in the sky - Rihanna As Autumn leaves start to fall in the UK, many of us are feeling understandably anxious about the prospect of a long socially distant trek through to spring. More than ever, it feels important to soak up nature's consolation for the loss of summer - the abundant harvest of flame coloured leaves on cool crisp days. Like squirrels, we can trust our natural instinct to hunker down and gather resources for the time ahead (that doesn't include stockpiling loo roll!) There are so many forms of self-care and creativity to help us rise and shine together - inspiring choir members in their 80s are up doing early morning yoga. To help shine up your singing radiance here's...
3 Ways to Sing and Shine
1. Breathe Deep Breathe in the sweet air of limitless possibility, and make life as rich as you know it can be - Ralph Marston Our voice rides the waves of our breath and our breath is the foundation of life, so it's fundamental to breathe deep when singing. This helps alleviate nerves, steadying our being so we can fly on the wings of song, swooping through melodies and enjoying the richness of each musical moment. You've been doing it from the moment you were born - so there's nowhere to go, nothing to do or be - you just come present to the magic of each breath. Right now put your hand on your belly, allow yourself to receive a deep breath, then let go, give, express. Cultivating this long soft belly breath gives us the foundation for singing - gently open into a hum, a sigh, a vowel, a phrase.
2. Warm Up - Breathe, Move, Intend, Sing Allow some warm-up time each day to stimulate your creative flow. A pianist does keyboard exercises. A gymnast stretches. An artist needs to loosen up, too. It takes a few minutes to shift from the real world into a creative mode. - Nita Leland Singing is a whole body, whole being experience and a good warm up sets us up to sing by aligning our mind, body, spirit and voice in a creative, fun way. My favourite daily warm ups include getting my mind and spirit tuned with meditation, intention and gratitude practices, getting moving with yoga, dancing, a walk /run in nature and getting my voice in gear with scales and vocal straw exercises. These help me feel relaxed, centred, energised, focussed and ready, not just to sing, but for life! Top to toe warm up - I made this video for members of my choirs with shorter session times in the time of covid - more videos and audios coming soon!
3. Shine from within Let your light shine bright, believe in yourself, believe that you can rise - Khushaal Sharma One of the amazing benefits of singing is that it brings us into the present moment, quietening down the distracting voice of our inner critic. Take the reins of your mind before singing, focus it towards a positive intention and be your own cheerleader - find your own singing mantra: I can do it, I love singing, I sing and shine! When singing for others set a clear intention to gift your listeners with love, happiness, joy, calm - whatever it is you want to beam out to them through song. Your love, passion, purpose and the present moment experience of singing is far more powerful than fear and self-consciousness. When you share your singing shine you make the world a lighter, brighter place! I am cheering you on! Go get em Tiger!
Warmly inviting you to Shine Up Your Singing this Autumn Singers Salon - Being the Song - starting Nov 4th - for those wanting to explore solo singing in a safe supportive small group Creative Coaching - bespoke 121 coaching for those looking to claim the joy, power and magic of their voices for singing, presentation and creative projects. Choirs - heartwarming community singing in a hybrid of on /offline options More about all of that below or head over to my website
Thank you for shining your light and staying connected, I really appreciate you staying tuned!
Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly Lots of love, virtual hugs and good singing vibes
Creating Singing Magic in Lockdown Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things – Tom Petty This challenging year has demonstrated the magic of singing can reach across the barriers and virtual obstacles of lockdown. Even in these painful months where my choirs have not been able to fully hear, sing and hug one another, magic has nonetheless been taking place. We've learned to beam our voices out across virtual cyberspace via Zoom and to become unwitting virtual video rockstars. So here's a few special lockdown singing magic highlights.
Photo: The Rookery, Streatham - chalk drawings by local school children.
You Raise Me Up Performed by Chris Samuel, Ali Orbaum, Wendy Sergeant & Katie Rose
Sing for Water Virtual Event If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water —Loren Eiseley Water This year, our annual mass choral fundraiser went online, supported singers from around the country singing and fundraising in innovative ways in virtual reality. Our virtual event had many incredibly moving moments including Dennis Lupenga from WaterAid Malawi sharing the transformation that happens when clean water comes to a village, ending the perilous journeys to unsafe water sources and bringing health and happiness. Huge Thanks to all the conductors, choir leaders and singers who took part - we really appreciate everyone's amazing singing and heroic fundraising efforts during these difficult times. Thames Festival Team will be creating a highlights video to share with friends and family by 27th September.
Keep Haulin' - ManSong
ManSong Keep Haulin' During Lockdown Courage is the magic that makes dreams a reality - Richter Abend Much magic has been happening with my male voice choir ManSong, who were only in their second term of singing together when lockdown happened and have bravely kept the boat afloat on Zoom. To celebrate our first birthday and a risk assessed return to singing in person this term, we have released a lockdown video fundraiser. I am super proud of everyone and so grateful to our in house director Adam Woods & crew. Thanks to Andy Cadie for letting us use his wonderful song Keep Haulin' which has become our catchphrase for singing our way through these strange times together. This video is fundraising to save our wonderful venue Landmark Arts Centre, whose dedicated team have supported us every step of the way. We hope you enjoy it and if inspired make a donation
The Big People Sunday Sing It is important to remember that we all have magic inside us. -J.K. Rowling Thank you so much to everyone who joined me on Sundays during intense lockdown from March-August. We had enormous fun singing and wearing silly hats and it really helped keep spirits up during lockdown. Donations from these sessions and from other generous members of my choral community raised £442.50 for St George's Hospital Charity.
Crystal Palace Festival.. and more... Know your magic, trust your magic, use your magic and know that you are a manifestation of life’s magic. — Rasheed Ogunlaru
Three Big Sparkly Cheers for the imaginative Festival Team who set up a film studio in Upper Norwood Library Hub to create two full days of livestreamed magic in August. I was really honoured to lead a Festival SingAlong with Dominic Stichbury - our first experience of Choir Leader TV! :) Here's the video if you missed it (Photo credit: Pawel Gawronski)
Shout out to Eleanor Rastall for inviting me on the Library Lunch Daily Show both at the beginning of lockdown and more recently, I'm getting used to singing to people I can't see but can definitely feel out there in the virtual airwaves. Thanks so much to everyone who tuned in.
Of course, virtual reality can never replace the magic of real singing with real people in real spaces with real hugs, tea and biscuits. However we are adapting, changing, creating magic within the constrictions of the craziness, and even though everything is still very uncertain, I trust that singing magic will continue to happen on and offline.
If you'd like to experience some singing magic, do get in touch - I'd love to hear from you!
Thank you so much for staying tuned.
Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly Lots of love, virtual hugs and good singing vibes
What's the Story Of Your Voice? It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story. - Patrick Rothfuss There is so much power, joy and magic in our voices, yet so often we carry inhibiting, limiting stories about them. As children we often had no choice about the stories we were told about our voices, but as adults we can become the storyteller and choose new, empowering narratives. I'm enjoying learning more about the magic of storytelling from amazing speaker Elaine Powell, and wanted to share some reflections on the power of reclaiming our vocal stories, personally and collectively.
The Never Ending Cycle of Stories Story is a yearning meeting an obstacle - Robert Olen Butler
As we see daily in the media hustle bustle, everyone loves a story. They tap into our deepest longings and our deepest experiences of challenge in life. Many of the world's most powerful myths work through the 3 part cycle of Life, Death and Rebirth - which can be seen as Beginning, Middle, End or Initiation, Departure and Return, the three overarching sections of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Nature is constantly moving through these cycles and we are part of nature - we seed, plant and grow new life then experience cleansing challenges, heartbreaking losses and tough lessons which then become the compost for new life. Our voice as an innate instrument on our journey through life, has it's own story which, when explored lovingly, yields hidden treasure.
Life Once upon a time there was what there was, and if nothing had happened there would be nothing to tell. - Charles de Lint When we are born we yell, naturally and instinctively accessing a powerful range of vocal expression - our baby cries can hit up to 120dB - well above the pain threshold of hearing. We gurgle, giggle, burble our way into early life, full of playful curiosity and innocent exploration. Just as we can easily put our feet above our heads, we can stretch our voices in all directions. In childhood we are enchanted by the magic of life and have easy access to the worlds of imagination, dreaming up words, songs and stories with ease. This natural vocal freedom, I believe is the true foundation of our voice, which we can access at any age and stage of life.
Death Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity. - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie At some point in life, however, we encounter a significant challenge around our vocal expression. Many men tell me they stopped singing when their voice broke, because they were not given the tools to understand their changing voices. I hear so many stories of people who were told to mime or were excluded from the school choir, and never dared sing publicly again. Funnily enough, I was told off for swaying whilst singing and left the school choir, not returning again until I started leading choirs years later. Somewhere along the way, something breaks in the process of socialisation, we lose connection to our natural, innate vocal freedom. We learn to be seen and not heard, to be meek and mild, to dampen our yells, cries, shouts, screams, to smother our songs and stories. Someone or something in our vocal story has written us off so we write off our voices, closing the book at a formative early chapter. So many times, the first thing anyone says when I mention singing is 'oh I can't sing... you wouldn't want to be in earshot when I do.' But 'I can't sing' does not need to be the end of the story and the very point that breaks us in our story can become a new beginning.
Rebirth I'll tell you a secret. Old storytellers never die. They disappear into their own story. - Vera Nazarian The voice within us, even if it has gone deep underground, still wants to be heard and will find a way out - maybe we meet a wizard, or a magic singing bird flies into our house or a fairy whispers in our dreams - but somehow it happens. A friend asks us to go to their choir or we spontaneously end up doing drunken karaoke on holiday or finally find the voice to stand up to the scary Dragon(s) in our life. We breakthrough the breakdown - recovered addicts tell me that singing gave them better highs and helped them get off drugs and family members express wonder that their formerly muted mother is now singing around the house and joining conversations. I am so honoured to witness so many people going through this amazing process - those who, after wandering through dark forests and rocky mountains, finally find their way into the magical glade of a choir or singing lesson. The dream that kept them singing secretly when no one was listening, finally comes true, as they learn to reclaim the magic and joy of their true voices in a safe space.
The Treasure of our Vocal Story The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection there is no story to tell - Ben Okri With love, care and support, we can restore a sense of wholeness that embraces all the ups and downs of our vocal story. All the breaks, wobbles, squeaks, wails, moans, crackly bits that we said we didn't like about our voices and all our trials and tribulations can be alchemised into treasure troves of creative expression. The scary Dragon that kept fierce, condemning guard over our voice turns out to be hopelessly lovable, just like the Dragon who starts out as a fierce adversary later becomes a friend to Shrek and the adoring wife of Donkey. We are free to play and enjoy our voices again, informed and guided by the wisdom we have gained on our journey.
Stories in Service Stories are our primary tools of learning and teaching, the repositories of our lore and legends. They bring order into our confusing world. Think about how many times a day you use stories to pass along data, insights, memories or common-sense advice. - Edward Miller We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling. - Jimmy Neil Smith Our vocal story can offer pearls of wisdom and inspiring messengers to others. We love hearing that Elvis didn't quit, despite being told by a concert hall manager to become a truck driver and that Fred Astaire kept a note from a director on his fireplace saying “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” These stories bring us closer to our shared humanity, of the imperfect experience of life which acts as a crucible for our growth. During this time when we are all experiencing loss and challenge, singing and telling our stories can help us stay connected - whether that's Skyping a bedtime story with the little people in our lives, singing in a virtual choir or swapping tales about Zooming with our work jacket in view and our pyjama bottoms out of sight.
Mapping your Vocal Story The most important places on a map are the places we haven't been yet - Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar The story of your voice contains hidden treasure in it that will bring joy, power and magic to you and to many others. The simple practice of taking a fresh piece of paper and drawing, mapping or writing your vocal story can yield insight, bestow gratitude for the journey so far and discover new pathways in the story of your voice.
If you'd like to explore more about your vocal story in a one to one session do contact me for a free 20 minute consultation.
Thank you so much for staying tuned during these difficult times. Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly Lots of love, virtual hugs and good singing vibes
Rainbow Summer Sunset - thanks to wonderful friends for inviting me to their allotment with a view!
A Rainbow of Thanks
Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud - Maya Angelou
I'm dedicating this month's newsletter to giving thanks for the rainbows in the lockdown clouds. Lockdown has involved multiple levels of loss - whether the loss of a loved one, loss of health, freedom, travel, social connection, hugs, work, education, earnings, activities, events. Even though lockdown is easing, there is continued uncertainty and grief. Many of us have had to dig deep to find the rainbows in the clouds, but if I am still here and you are still reading this, then both of us are still living and breathing in this moment and that's one big rainbow to be thankful for. 🌈
Nature's Messenger of Hope My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: - Wordsworth During a Caterham Choir Zoom, our spirits were lifted by this double rainbow. Throughout history, the rainbow has always been seen as a message of hope. Iris (from Greek eiris -messenger) is the Greek Goddess of rainbows. Daughter of a nymph and a sea god, she travels the world on golden wings at the speed of the wind, watering the clouds with ocean water and carrying the message of the rainbow between heaven and earth. My lockdown walks have been a god(dess)send, bringing the discovery of many magical green spaces and socially distant chats. Huge thanks to all who supported my Walk the Walk Moonwalk Roadtrip and to Stella Plumbridge for co-ordinating our team - I walked 136.44 miles and collected £323 for cancer charities. I did my final walk all pinked up and following requests, my daily blogs are available as a roadtrip e-book 🌈
Thank You for the Music... and the arts Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty what would life be? Without a song or a dance what are we? Singing together in online choirs, even in a very strange way, has been a lifeline for many of us, helping us stay connected and keep the flame of song burning. We've all learned new skills including how to look cool/ pull silly faces/ take a nap on Zoom. Creative projects have brought enormous solace, growth and fulfilment during this time. The arts can bring imaginative innovation and entertain, uplift and soothe aching hearts during a crisis. It it has taken a huge amount of lobbying from campaigns such as Public Campaign for the Arts to raise government funds and we must continue to raise our voices and bang our drums in appreciation and support of the arts. 🌈
Celebrating Pride & Remembering Ray The beauty of standing up for your rights is others see you standing and stand up as well."— Cassandra Duffy During June, rainbows beamed across our virtual world in celebration of Pride. Gilbert Baker pioneered the use of the rainbow flag for the LGBTQ movement in 1978 and it has since become a global symbol of inclusion for many taking a beautiful technicolour stand at Pride marches. During lockdown, LGBTQ+ activist Ray Harvey-Amer passed over the rainbow. A gentle, dedicated, flamboyant, big hearted revolutionary, Ray marched on the first Pride and having served as a nurse in the Royal Navy from 1957, was instrumental in bringing about recognition for members of the LGBT community who served in WWI & II. A memorial fund has been set to raise funds tor Rainbows Across Borders Choir, which he founded to support LGBT Asylum seekers through the ordeal of applying for asylum in the UK. His extraordinary legacy lives on in the rainbow marches of today and tomorrow 🌈
Thankyou NHS & for your donations To make a rainbow you must have rain Must have sunshine, joy and pain Lots of hues and different shades And poof! Like magic, a rainbow's made - Dolly Parton
The rainbow arch has become a symbol of gratitude to the NHS who celebrated their 72nd Birthday with a virtual choir version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I received a lovely thank you card from St George's Hospital Charity for the donations collected via my Honesty Box for the Big People Sunday Sing sessions and other generous singing friends. So far together we've raised over £300 and counting..! 🌈
Daring to dream over the rainbow of a post-lockdown world Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true Gratitude heightens my awareness of what I hold dear. Many of us have experienced significant shifts in our priorities in this time of personal and collective reflection. Two huge examples of the transformation catalysed during this crisis include: The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests are the largest civil rights movement in history, which have spanned all 50 US States and 18 countries, calling on our global community to address systemic racism at all levels of society. Lockdown has brought about a revolution in home working, dramatically reducing transport pollution and increasing quality of life. 74% of hospital doctors and 88% of GPs are in favour of continuing remote appointments, which the Royal College of Medicine predict will continue to form 50% of consultations. A Bright Horizons study of 1500 parents found that only 1:8 want to return to pre-lockdown work and 50% will request flexible working.
We can all, I believe, help create the world of our dreams by asking 🌈 1. What have been our rainbows in the lockdown clouds? 🌈 2. What changes do we want to see in a post lockdown world? 🌈 3. What actions can we take to make these dreams reality?
I'm hopeful there will be some form of return to socially distant singing in the not too distant future.
In the meantime online sessions continue and I'm delighted to be offering two special Summer Schools in Music Theory and Vocal Health & Anatomy - more info below.
Thank you so much for staying tuned during these difficult times. Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly Lots of love, virtual hugs and good singing vibes