#LoveWall by JGoldcrown, Cafe Gratitude, Los Angeles
in Challenging Times
Hope you are safe and well, sending you HUGE VIRTUAL HUGS!!! and so much singing love as we face this global crisis together.
Boosting our creativity during this time of retreat can help build our collective immunity, spreading love and strength. Many of us have been touched and uplifted by seeing videos of our Italian friends singing on their balconies. It affirms the creative power of our hearts and voices to rise to meet challenges, like flowers springing up amidst concrete. Courage comes from the French word for heart Couer and I truly believe we can take heart and find courageous, creative ways through thus storm.
Since all my choirs closed, I have been asking how I can serve at this time and will be sharing online singing, writing and videos to help keep our spirits up. This blog is intended to be a practical resource kit for Courageous Creativity 5 Ways to Manage Fear Wisely 5 Remedies for Wellbeing 5 Ways to Courageous Creativity
5 WAYS TO MANAGE FEAR WISELY I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. - Nelson Mandela
It is absolutely natural and understandable to feel afraid in these uncertain times. Fear is survival response which arises whenever we face a real or perceived threat. We currently face a very real threat to our collective wellbeing which is generating a huge amount of collective fear. What counts is what we do with our fear and how we manage it, so it becomes a useful force rather than a mad debilitating toilet roll buying panic.
1. BREATHE DEEP Breathing deeply resets and calms our nervous system, supports healthy lung function and enables us to face challenges with clarity. Belly Breath - place your hand on your belly and take long soft breaths, feeling the rise and fall of your hand. See how much you can deepen the motion without forcing. Other helpful breathing exercises: 6 Count Breath (breathe in for 6, hold in for 6, breathe out for 6, hold out for 6) Alternate Nostril Breathing, Pursed Lip Breathing and Lions Breath
2. TAKE ACTION Some of our fears are calls to action and need to be attended to. We are being called right now to protect each other by staying home, social distancing and careful hygiene. Do not ignore the message, your fear is real and taking constructive action will relieve it and help keep everyone safe.
3. MOVE Fear is a visceral experience with physiological symptoms - our hearts beat fast and stomachs churn. Physical activity helps discharge and channel it constructively, so get moving with some cooking, cleaning, DIY, a walk, workout, online yoga class (check out Yoga with Adriene) or a wild sing and dance - here's my Dance Like Noone's Watching playlist
4. TAME THE MONKEY MIND There are so many helpful tools to calm an anxious mind including Positive self talk - speak or sing a helpful phrase/ affirmation/ mantra Hypnosis - check out Marisa Peer Meditation - Deepak & Oprah’s Meditation Experience CBT online courses are available via IAPT Gratitude Lists - helps us focus on the good stuff Mind and other Mental Health Charities Less scrolling, more creating - limit your intake of news and social media
5. STAY CONNECTED Remember you are not alone in this - we are all in this together. This crisis is making us all aware of how much we love and value each other and miss our hugs. Social Distancing is making us find creative new ways to share resources and stay in touch. Amidst the chaos and pain, there is a catalytic potential for transformative change of our social structures and lifestyles for more care, peace, love, unity and sustainability.
5 REMEDIES FOR WELLBEING Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down. - Eleanor Roosevelt
These remedies can support respiratory health and boost immune response 1. TURMERIC - add to warm water with your choice of lemon juice/ coconut oil/ honey and for the brave hearted cayenne pepper 2. GARLIC IS YOUR FRIEND - finely chop a clove, add to a small amount of water and swig it down like a shot- no smell! Other immune boosters include ginger, vitamin C & D and eating / juicing lots of fresh fruit and veg. 3. STEAM - head under a towel over a bowel of boiling water. 4. SLEEP - use the quiet time to rest and rejuvenate 5. LAUGH - a good belly laugh promotes deep breathing & boosts joy vitamins - so top up on jokes and comedy eg Stay At Home Comedy Festival This was sent to me by a member of my Welcome Choir!
5 PROMPTS FOR COURAGEOUS CREATIVITY Creativity is contagious. Pass it on - Einstein
1. FILL THE CREATIVE CUP We can use this time at home to connect with creative sources of inspiration, learning and self-development though virtual tours, online concerts, books, courses and podcasts. Chatter Pack has a fun list of suggestions, #64MillionArtists are running a 2 Week Create to Connect programme and The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is the absolute classic creative support manual.
2. FIND ONLINE SOLUTIONS Those of us facing daunting restrictions on our work lives are now asking how can we serve and contribute when we are no longer able to hold meetings, events, conferences and groups. There is however so much we can do online: we can learn from leading online entrepreneurs such as Leonie Dawson,Marie Forleo, use online platforms including Zoom, Kajabi and Udemy for courses and meetings, write and publish e-books via Kindle, sell creative products via Etsy, CD Baby or Bandcamp, get hired via Fiverr and set up Facebook/ WhatsApp support groups.
3. NEW CREATIVE OFFERINGS now is the time to be making books, music, artwork, blogs, vlogs, articles, Facebook lives, podcasts, e-courses to help bring beauty, inspiration, insight and growth to the world.
4. CLEAN HOUSE Spring clean and sell stuff on e-bay or clear up outstanding admin, accounting or unresolved issues. Organising for Creatives by Sheila Chandra is a great resource to get your creative house in order.
5. SING! Flexing your vocal muscles and swelling your lungs with song will support your inner and outer resiliency. Choirs are no longer able to meet and sing in person but there are many wonderful online initiatives springing - see below for a list. My choirs have been having fun testing out online sessions and I will be running some workshops for big and little people - more info below.
SHARE THE LOVE This is an unprecedented time of challenge, but we can help each other by sharing the love. Let’s dream up new ways we can live and work together and alchemise this crisis with courageous creativity.
Take care, be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly - huge amounts of love and good singing vibes.
Choirs During Corona All choirs will no longer be meeting in person until it is safe to do so. Members of Welcome Choir, Caterham Community Choir, Lung Songs, Heart Song and ManSong are experimenting with singing online. Online Singing Sessions for Big & Little People Little - Weds 11-11.30am Big - Sundays 2-3pm please click here for a fun invitation
“It only takes one voice, at the right pitch, to start an avalanche.” - Dianna Hardy A week or so ago, two extraordinary young women, Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai met for the first time. In the same week, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced for up to 25 years for rape, a historic victory for the #MeToo movement and campaign to prevent a third runway at Heathrow was successful. Here's some reflections on how the power of both individual and collective voices of people of all genders can move mountains and change the world.
Girl: A Song for IWD As we reflect on the power of women's voices this #IWD2020, I offer up my annual song,Girl,this year inspired by Malawi Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, known as The Terminator, for her work annulling child marriage and making sure that young girls receive an education. If this cause moves you, do join me in supporting Plan International who are working to make sure young girls stay in education.
The Power of the Strong Voice When a young woman is encouraged to own her power and is given basic skills in claiming her own voice then huge, good changes follow. - Naomi Wolf There many aspects to claiming the power of the voice and it is a unique journey for each individual. Time spent getting to know our own voices is invaluable as we come to understand the peaks and depths of our own unique instrument of expression. There are mountains of our vocal range to climb and the valleys of our deepest creative longings to mine. There are also rocky precipices and places of peril - fears, inhibitions, wounds and old stories that can often stop us in our tracks. However, as these two amazing young women demonstrate, when we face down the bullets, haters, oppressors, naysayers, bullies, extremists, critics... when we refuse to be silenced, when a voice is unleashed that resonates with many others, whole movements are formed and change happens: "We still have a long way to go for women in the criminal justice system, but it’s also a message to those who would hurt women. It’s no longer going to be business as usual,” - Gloria Allred, who represented Miriam Haley, one of the main witnesses in the Harvey Weinstein case.
The Power to Express You start out in life sensitive and full of wonder, open to the world and all its possibilities, but, then, after a certain age, these qualities are shamed, beaten, bullied out of you by the culture and, often, by the men who run our nations, corporations, legal firms, sporting clubs, schools, advertising agencies, film industries and media outlets. Is it any wonder that men are never taught to deal with their emotions in a healthy way? ..Centuries of patriarchy have raised boys to reject and scorn the interior world where our deepest feelings are lodged. Why should it surprise us, therefore, that boys might grow into men who view women as less than fully human? - David Leser When fully aligned with our authentic truth, our voice is an innate, natural source of power which can rise, roar, sing, speak and express every emotion in our human experience. Traditional patriarchal norms that prevent men from crying and expressing themselves can be a contributing factor in male abuse, violence and suicide. Dismantling these norms and giving men a space where they can express themselves safely is part of the mission of movements such as She is Not Your Rehab and Andy's Men's Clubs. This is one of many reasons why I am proud to lead ManSong, a now 40 strong male voice choir where we holler sea shanties, clown around with mad pop songs and cry over epic war ballads.
The Power to Change I think it’s important for people – including bullies and haters – to see me because people need to see there are kids like me out there. Gender creative kids need to see other kids like themselves. The more people see people like me, the less “different” we are and the more they accept people like me. Besides, I’m not ashamed of who I am. - C.J. - Gender is Over Our voice can be powerful tool to enable us to create new possibilities and freedom around gender. We liberate ourselves and widen the horizons of our communities and societies when we reclaim ourselves from oppressive gender norms. Gender stereotypes such as boys don't cry or girls are sissy constrict everyone. The LGBTQ community are yet to be fully honoured for the leadership they bring to our world in empowering a full rainbow spectrum of creativity around gender and sexual oppression. It was an honour to sing with Sarah Fisher and Welcome Choir at the Croydon Civic Launch of LGBT History Month in February and I am looking forward to a lively spring sing with LGBTQ friends & allies at Many Voices on 14th March.
The Power to Play An hour of play discovers more than a year of conversation. - Anon Proverb I had a truly wonderful day with Esther Austin, multi-talented Editor of Turning Point Magazine and the many talented folks who shared their gifts and attended the Celebration of Life. Over an afternoon of dancing, laughing, sharing, eating, trading, exchanging - which could all be described as playing together - rich connections were made and warmth generated. For me, singing with people for just a couple of hours at choir - playing with our voices - creates such an deeply reassuring feeling of friendliness - of being welcomed, recognised, seen, heard and known. It is as profound as it can be fun and silly. This is the wisdom of children, who naturally experiment with their voices all day long, whooping, screaming, yelling, howling, yabbering, burbling, giggling. The gurgle of a happy baby is an irresistible invitation back into the zone of vocal play.
The Power of Voices in Solidarity "I cried the first time I heard Un Violador en Tu Camino. I’m so proud of the young women of today – and this performance represents us all.” - Victoria Gallardo, 71 On Valentine's Night I joined members of the Women's Strike Assembly to perform the song A Rapist In Your Path/ Un Violador en Tu Camino in Trafalgar Square. The song was written by Lastesis, a feminist theatre group based in Valparaíso, Chile and inspired by the work of the Argentinian theorist Rita Segato. The accompanying dance features squats, the position female protestors are made to assume when arrested by Chilean police and has been performed at Santiago’s National Stadium in Chile, the site of a prison and torture camp after Pinochet's 1973 military coup. The song has gone viral and been performed by women all over the world, and it was a powerful moment of solidarity to perform it at Trafalgar Square, feeling connected to not own women, but to people of all genders who are actively seeking empowerment and change. In our voices ride the echoes of the voices of those who have gone before and those who are yet to come. Our voices count, our voices matter and our voices are powerful.
"It’s a New Decade, It’s time for Newness and we refuse the negative energy, we refuse the old systems... We went to be respected and safe in our diversity. We want to be shifting to realness and inclusivity... We are Unstoppable.... Music is that on language we can all speak, it don't matter where we're from, we all understand it. " - Alicia Keys, The Grammys This week I have had some very moving experiences singing Jewish songs with my choirs to mark #HolocaustMemorialDay. One member of my Carers Choir shared the immensely courageous, moving story of their grandparents and parents perilous escape from Austria to England where they had to Anglicise their surname to avoid Anti-Semitism. All divisive, destructive forms of extreme identity politics, such as fascism & Nazism, fabricate and manipulate people's sense of their cultural, religious or national identity and induce fear that they are under threat from the 'other' - eg immigrants are stealing 'our' jobs. The dominant identity is given voice through the megaphones of media, whilst the voices of the 'other' are violently excluded, oppressed, smothered and silenced. Whilst we face a frightening rise in fascism, there is I believe, an unstoppable movement towards an Inclusive Voice which celebrates our differences and shared humanity, enriching our understanding and connection with each other. It is to this global symphony that I wish to lend my voice in this month's blog.
Understanding The Human Family Tree At the deepest level, all living things that have ever been looked at have the same DNA code. And many of the same genes. - Richard Dawkin To eliminate genocide, holocausts, persecution, war, tribal violence - we need to fully understand and embody our interconnectedness. Tracking both our personal and collective genealogy, DNA and ancestry demonstrates that we are all from everywhere. The origin in Africa and subsequent movement of people around the globe makes us all immigrants. As such we are all part of one big tree of humanity with global roots. Not only are we intimately related to people of all cultures, tribes and creeds - but also to all life itself, sharing masses of genetic material with other species aswell as our precious life and environment on this planet.
Reclaiming Hidden Voices Moving from silence into speech is for the oppressed, the colonized, the exploited, and those who stand and struggle side by side a gesture of defiance that heals, that makes new life and new growth possible. It is that act of speech, of 'talking back,' that is no mere gesture of empty words, that is the expression of our movement from object to subject—the liberated voice - Bell Hooks Reclaiming, liberating, including and celebrating the stories and voices who have been oppressed by the dominant white patriarchal history, dogma and identity is an essential part of restoring social justice and creating an inclusive society. If we have any kind of social privilege, we need to be both investigating and dismantling our own conditioning in order to be a good ally to those who have experienced oppression. (White readers - do check out Me And White Supremacy by Layla F Saad.) The arts can be a powerful medium for giving voice and visibility to those who have been unheard and unseen - to give just one example, Amie's Freedom Choir, is a safe space for women who have been trafficked to find and explore their voices together.
The Love of Humanity That idea of peace and love toward humanity shouldn't be nationalistic or denominational. It should be a chief concern for all mankind. - Mos Def The wisdom of the love of humanity - as taught throughout the ages by artists, sages, educators and wise ones such as MLK and Mandela - teaches us that we are all one family. This is embodied through cultivating empathy, compassion, warmth, friendship, connection and love. Reconciliation, dialogue and creative encounter through the arts can help bring people of differing views and backgrounds together. I was recently inspired by the leadership of Hilke Wagner who in response to far right hate, created a series of dialogue events called We Need to Talk at the the Dresden Albertinum Museum: 'I found it important to establish this feeling of personal relationship. We had participants from across the social and political spectrum, with a range of attitudes. And we learned a lot from each other.' Stories such as these give me hope that we can and are building bridges across perceived divisions of identity and sing the songs that help us remember our shared humanity.
Happy New Singing Year! As we enter another year and another decade, Here's 3 Joyful Ways to Renew and Claim Your Voice in 2020
Find Your Unique Song You gotta make your own kind of music Sing your own special song Make your own kind of music Even if nobody else sings along Make Your Own Kind of Music - Mama Cass Elliott It takes courage to sing, there is no getting around that. We have to be willing to expose, express and voice our creative truth and that is exposing and vulnerable making. Yet to live with that truth unexpressed is far more painful and can cause disease, disconnection and disintegration. Singing is a form of coming home and sometimes it may take a while to find our way through the layers of conditioning. We can make it safe, easy and graceful and find supportive friends who will help us along the way. We can also enjoy the unfettered joy of singing solo in the car/ bath/ shower - gifting ourselves moments to sing by and to ourselves creates a resource within us which then becomes translatable into shared or public settings. The technical term for hanging out with ourselves musically is practice and the more we do it the stronger we get. We learn to ride the tides of our breath, body, feeling, thoughts and claim our own uniqueness through the waves of the song that sings through us.
Inspiration is Everywhere Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. - April Rain Song, Langston Hughes Everything around us has a song. The drumming rain on a roof, the whirr of the fridge, the undertone of a train, the waft of bird song, the thump of a drive-by car stereo. Everything in our world vibrates with sound and everything within us does too - our heartbeat, our cells are all humming with life. This means we are never alone or lost when it comes to music - all we need do is tap into our inner and outer soundscape and the soundtrack emerges. There are so many tools to help us sing - from innumerable online articles, blogs and youtube tutorials (shout out to Wendy's Warm Ups) to real life helpful people such as singing teachers and choirs. The sources of inspiration are inexhaustible, and when we allow ourself to breath in and receive musical inspiration, it naturally follows that something lovely will be exhaled and expressed.
Singing is Huge! Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness, And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream. And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space. - On Time - Khalil Gibran Singing is a huge Tardis - it can take you anywhere. At choir, we sing songs from all decades, eras, genres, moods which transport us into realms of memory, insight, feeling, thought and connection personally and collectively. The epic creative vehicle of song is so much greater than our small selves - it can carry, absorb and integrate our fears, doubts, worries, tensions and stresses. As we sing, we grow into bigger, more expansive, more loving, generous people who can make a contribution to the world. The song that is waiting inside us will be unique to us and call us into action - whether that is singing our baby to sleep or showing up at a protest hearts on fire and voices blazing.
So my 3 questions to you for your voice this year are What am I longing to sing, create or express in 2020? What sources of inspiration can I allow myself to receive? What dream/ vision/ longing is my song calling me to be/ do/ serve?
Wishing you a courageous heartfelt adventure of song this new year and new decade! Sparkly New Year Singing Wishes
A Year in Song 2019 - Thank you for sharing your Singing Magic!
Solstice Christmas Card
A Year in Song 2019 When we are aching from life's challenges, singing can sprinkle a little bit of magic into our hearts. As we sing, we grow in strength, resilience, friendship, creativity, imagination, purpose and connection. We contribute to one another in a magical community of song.
With big thanks to all the singers who have shared their magic with me this year. Looking forward to a new year of song in 2020.
Thanks especially to: All the amazing friends who took part in Sing for Water 2019 & raised £37k for WaterAid St Christopher's Hospice Compassionate Neighbours Programme & Stephanie Turner @Christchurch Gill Manly - International Women's Day Event @ The Oval Esther Austin - Turning Point Magazine Sydenham Singers, Vauxhall Voices & Janna Goodwille Raise the Roof & Kirsty Martin Mitcham Community Choir & Neil Ridulfa Holistic Healing College & Blue Marsden Sydenham Arts & Rachel D'Cruze Forest Schools Association Caterham Community Choir & Sarah Fisher The Hive Community Choir @St John the Evangelist with thanks to funding from Crystal Palace Festival and One Croydon Alliance HeartSong @Holwell Village Hall & John Burden Heart & Lung Songs @ St George's Hospital ManSong @ Landmark Arts Centre Welcome Choir @ St John the Evangelist in partnership with Social Prescribing Crystal Palace Transition Town, SE19 Lates, West Norwood Feast, Crystal Palace Food Market London Mozart Players Croydon Carers Choir @Carers Support Centre - with thanks to Creative Croydon & Mike King's My Cool Music Foundation All the brave adventurers who came to explore their voice and creativity in coaching sessions.