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Blog

What's the Story Of Your Voice? 

Dear Katie

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 of Thanks 

Rainbow Summer Sunset - thanks to wonderful friends for inviting me to their allotment with a view!
Dear Friend


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

Global Solidarity + Love Your Voice Survey 

Rainy Rose - taken on one of my fundraising walks for Walk the Walk
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Dear <>

I hope you are keeping safe and well in these intense times - sending oodles of good vibes and singing solidarity from London lockdown.

Thank you so much for being part of my creative community.
As I'm reflecting on how best I can serve at this time, I'd just like to warmly invite you to take part in my
Love Your Voice Survey 
as I'd really appreciate your feedback - please click here.

Thank you so much for sharing your time, energy and beautiful voice with me and the world.
Raising Our Voices Against Racism
My heart is aching because of the horror we have witnessed in the US and the ongoing horror that is institutionalised racism. A spark of hope is also kindled in my heart by seeing many people around the world from all backgrounds are coming together to raise their voices against racism and affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.
I add my voice in solidarity with the global protests at the horrific murder of George Floyd by white policemen and the subsequent treatment of protestors. #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd.
I add my voice to call for an end to brutal, institutionalised racism towards the black community worldwide.
I add my voice to call for an enquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities
In my Crystal Palace community, I have been proud and honoured to take a peaceful, safe, socially distant stand against racism together with a supportive, relaxed police presence.  I know that protesting on the street is only one form of contribution and I honour the many ways we can raise our voices for a better world.
Broken Angels
Broken Angels - this song came to me on a walk amongst broken angels in local cemeteries. I've always loved broken sculptures, because they embody the wisdom many sages and artists have reminded us of - it's through our brokenness the love gets through.  We are kinder when we remember that everyone is trying to navigate their own brokenness. For we break through when we reach each other across the brokenness - when police and protesters embrace, when loved ones virtually hug on zoom.  We can hold each other in our broken angel arms through these heart breaking times.

Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly 
Lots of love, virtual hugs and good singing vibes


 

Finding Strength in Fragility 

Finding Strength

in Fragility



Dear Friend

Beaming Out Love in Fragile Times
Beaming out a huge amount of virtual hugs and good singing vibes to you all
- hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.
Thank you for staying tuned, whether on email, social media or Zoom - I really appreciate it.  We are singing each other through this, one day at a time.
Here's some thoughts on how honouring our fragility makes us stronger and helps us stay tuned to what really matters.

Honouring Our Fragility
Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong - Julia Cameron

This statement by Julia Cameron hit me between the eyes when I first read it many moons ago in The Artists Way.  It reveals this incredible paradox, that rather than armouring, denying, resisting, masking or muscling up to our vulnerability, we actually grow stronger when we honour it.   When I am willing to face my vulnerabilities, I am more able to connect with inner and outer sources of strength and support - when I acknowledge that I don't understand something, I become more open to learning; when I am willing to discuss issues, challenges and problems, I become more available to finding solutions.  Honouring our vulnerability does not mean getting lost in navel gazing - it can actually propel us into active service and empathic connection with others.  Acknowledging our shared fragility at this time inspires us to be more caring towards each other - to appreciate and thank our frontline workers and to find new ways of connecting from a distance.



Honouring the Unknown
I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat - unknown
One of the hardest thing for our minds to cope with is the unknown.  In the face of it our minds start inventing and speculating - as we seen in the cacophony of Corona Theories- conspiracy theories, medical and alternative health advice, fake and real news, new age portals, stats, graphs, pass on this virtual hug or die chain mails etc.  This is completely understandable, and as it will take time for solutions to emerge, we also need to find ways to allow ourselves to be with the unknown.  It can be deeply relieving for our mental health to let go of all the mind babble and just honestly say
I don't know, I am taking one day at a time.
All the great artists and mystics have taught us that the unknown is the space of creativity, that we find freedom through mystery, in the spaces beyond dogma, analysis, theory and conditioned beliefs.  The spark of inspiration is kindled in the space of unknowing, and there is no knowing what will catch light -  whether you are cooking dinner, writing a poem, putting a video out on social media, asking someone on a zoom date, it is always a grand experiment with unknown results. The risk and reward of this adventure is that we learn and grow, becoming bigger, wider, deeper, stronger, bolder, through each encounter with the unknown.

Honouring Death
There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval
- George Santayana

Death is the final great unknown, yet it is certain that we will face it - not just our own death, but in many endings, losses and bereavements throughout life.  As anyone who has tended a garden knows, nature continually moves through cycles of life, death and rebirth and even the most cursory glance at history demonstrates that human civilisations also rise, fall and renew.  Yet western capitalist media makes death taboo and peddles innumerable anti-aging products in an attempt to sell the illusion of eternal youth.  This vain denial of death leaves us unprepared - apparently 54% of people in the UK have not made a will.  Given that we pack an emergency bag ready before the birth of child, it is strange that so many people do not have their bags are packed ready for their final voyage.  Grief is exacerbated when there are regrets, conflicts, unfinished business and things left unsaid, so it is more caring, both to ourselves and those we leave behind, to make our final wishes clear.  As this crisis heightens our awareness of mortality, Death Cafes are seeing a huge surge in people needing to talk about death, part of a healthy movement towards being more honest and open about this natural part of existence.  It need not be gloomy - I have had very funny, tender conversations with my family about what to do should CV take me off the planet.
We can also learn from cultures and spiritual traditions where cultivating an active awareness of death enables us to live more fully in the present moment.  Remembering we only have a limited time on earth can inspire us to value our time and those we love, make amends, get our affairs in order and create a loving legacy for those who come after us.

Honouring the Precious Present Helps Build a Better Future
'We've had 5 weeks of not one single use coffee cup going out into Aoterea, that's around 2,800,000 - in NZ alone. What do we want to do now? Do we want to come out differently? Or do we return to using 80,000 bits of avoidable waste every day?'
Honouring our fragility enables us to get clearer about what really matters.  As societies, we are being forced to reflect, to take a collective pause on how we want to live - both now and in the future.   As we realise that decreased pollution and consumption  helps planet and people breathe more freely, countries emerging from lockdown are implementing economic and environmental reforms such as increasing cycle lanes and pedestrianised areas.  Honouring the precious fragility of life enables us to make the radical changes necessary to preserve life for today and for future generations.
As we take one fragile day at a time, we become stronger, resilient, more able to support one another, more available to the preciousness of each moment.  We can surrender to being captivated by a flower, a scent, a loved one's smile. Our moments become enriched with the gifts of presence.

Wishing you and yours many beautiful, precious moments of joy, love, creativity and connection in these fragile times.

Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly
- huge amounts of love and good singing vibes.

Fragile
Something for a rainy day... 'on and on the rain will say, how fragile we are,' - Sting - dedicated to the fragility in all of us and those facing this crisis where there is no clean water, where there is war, poverty, violence, displacement and homelessness. We grow stronger, clearer, kinder & more in tune with what really matters when we honour the fragile preciousness of life 💦💧

Holding Hope in Song 

Yellow Rose

A bud of golden hope
Just arrived at my door
Tightly coiled in the clasp
Of tiny twirling branches
Carrying the promise of
Bright spring days and
Ripening blossoms
In its furled beauty.
So these coiled days
Where we draw in,
Carry the promise of
Greater care and tenderness
When from bud we bloom
Carrying the love of those
We have lost on the branches
Of spring's golden song.

I wrote this poem after receiving this beautiful rose from Welcome Choir member Zuleika.  One of my lockdown projects is collating collections of my poetry which I look forward to sharing with you!
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Holding Hope In Song


Dear Friend

Holding Hope
Hope you are safe and well this virtual Easter/ Passover/  Bank Holiday
I just wanted to beam out lots of love and say a

HUGE THANKYOU
to everyone who has come to sing online and sent donations, messages, jokes, flowers, fruit or stopped for a socially distant chat.
My heart goes out to all frontline workers, those who are unwell, those grieving loved ones and those facing this crisis in poverty, war, violence and displacement.
I hold hope that in the quiet time we are seeding potential for a huge hug fest and explosion of creativity that could help make our world a more loving, sustainable, fair, caring, beautiful place to be.

How, Where and Why to keep singing
during lockdown.

Here's some resources to help us keep singing our way through this storm.
For the HOW AND WHERE, please check this page on my website
and here's the WHY... much of which applies to other forms of creativity.

Staying Connected
We may be physically distant but we can stay connected in many virtual ways or via post and telephone.
Singing online does have very real limitations - due to delays we can't all hear and sing together. However we can still see and sing along with each other from the safety of our homes - we can wave, whoop, cheer, laugh and make silly sounds together.  We can keep growing the supportive ecosystems of our choirs and social groups in new and unusual ways - my choirs have been having online parties and talent shows!

Boosting Wellbeing
We are facing a respiratory virus and many of us our now moving around less due to lockdown. So as a gentle form of cardio- vascular exercise which deepens our breath cycle, having a good sing - whether in the shower or with online choir, can really support our wellbeing. A great stress buster, it helps us to blow off steam and express our feelings in a safe, creative way.  I've been starting my online sessions with a really good stretch and ending with optional dancing to help keep us all moving.

Being Creative in the Now
I used to say to myself, although you're in restricted and limiting circumstances and you've no idea whether you're going to be out tomorrow, whether you're going to be out in 5 years, whether you're going to die in this place, remember one thing, this is your life now, not tomorrow, not yesterday, now. And in this moment, don't be defeated..
I thought those years in captivity were totally wasted. At the time. But looking back, they weren't. Because I was forced there to use my imagination.. I wrote my first book in my head 

Terry Waite former hostage.

Many new forms of creativity are springing up in these times, as we adapt to our new virtual world.  We are having to dream up new ways to celebrate birthdays, mark social occasions, educate our children, stay active etc. Singing takes us into the realms of imagination, intuition and dreams - enabling us to refresh tired and worried minds and access sources of rejuvenation and inspiration.  Just like other forms of creativity - reading a book, watching a movie - it takes us into creative present moment awareness, giving us fresh perspectives on our lives.


Play!
Play, fun, laughter are all great antidotes to stress and anxiety, releasing happy hormones into our systems.  We've been enjoying laughing and being silly at online choir sessions which is such good therapy.  For a big boost for your joy vitamins, check out my friend Joe Hoare's online Laughter Yoga sessions.

Holding Hope
Sure as the wind is blowing and sure as the rain
Sure as the sun does shine, we will raise our song again - Libana

Singing ultimately keeps our spirits up and helps us remain hopeful amidst lockdown, to affirm that this too shall pass, that we will again hug and sing together and that we will emerge having grown, changed and created new ways of living that will enrich our world.

Wishing you and yours nourishing, playful, restful, creative times
during lockdown

Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly
- huge amounts of love and good singing vibes.