Sorrel sings!

All Wales Bahai Choir 4

Joining the choir was a bit of a no-brainer for me. I really enjoyed singing in choirs at school, and nowadays, with two small children, I can just about commit to one day a month. It’s what all mothers crave, just a little bit of time doing something I enjoy.

What makes singing in a group (let’s not formalise) like this so enjoyable?

Firstly, we are making music. Music, as we all know, enriches and colours our lives – from the lullaby we sing to the baby, to the rock and roll that gives us the energy to tackle the washing up. I may be taking examples from my own life here, but you get the idea. Abdu’l-Baha said that ‘Through the power and charm of music the spirit of man is uplifted’

What a pleasure it is, then, to have several hours purely devoted to music and really listening to it, rather than half hearing the radio whilst driving the car.

Secondly, its good company. I’m not saying that you’ll get on with everyone in every choir, but generally, there will like minded people who are there for the same reasons as you. Baha’u’llah urges us to ‘Consort with all men… in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship’, which sounds to me like a great idea. The NHS now lists five steps to mental wellbeing, and the first is ‘connect with other people’. Basically, just meeting and interacting positively with other people can improve our own sense of self-worth and purpose, making us happier.

Thirdly, and possibly building on the first two points, a choir is a great example of unity in action. We’re all different, but we are all working together towards the common goal of producing lovely music. We listen to one another, and support one another. We might have different parts to sing, but they all contribute equally to the whole. And when we master a song, unity has been achieved, and it is such a natural, spiritual high. Imagine if this could be magnified, and applied to solve the problems of the world. It’s a powerful tool – ‘So potent is light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth’. 

 Sorrel Jones

You can find out more about the choir by emailing Fleur: missaghianft@gmail.com or visiting her website here.

Refugee Week 2009 Choir

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A certain indescribable charm

Och, Och It’s been a very long time since I last posted or ranted or shared anything creative here on my wordpress page! Well, now my Masters is finished, I can get back to my writing duties, re-inspired from my year of creative exploration and academic ponderings. It’s been an amazing year and I feel so grateful for the experience of studying at Uni Glamorgan alongside my fellow Masters students and with really excellent tutors.

So, I’m in the process of deciding where, as a creative soul, I go from here. Yes, I’ve spent a year focused on theatre, on drama and script writing- and this may well take me someplace new. But today I’d like to talk about music and the power of singing.

I’m feeling rather fed-up with the world of X-Factor like television programs, which are now given such importance that they are part of news bulletins! These cash-cow, emotionally manipulative, fame-lust creating monsters are riding on the back of the beauty of the human voice and the way our hearts are stirred when someone sings with true emotion. I feel aggrieved that so many young people who love singing now think that the only way to feel happy, to ‘do what I’ve always wanted to do’ is to be on a stage competing against each other in front of judges who will pull them apart (when on a different team) and stick by them (if on their team), blatantly biased and blatantly dramatic for good TV ratings. It’s a crazy-making attitude and a desire for an illusion that can never be fulfilling or really make you happy.

If you only want to sing – then SING! Do it right now, in your kitchen, garden, car, bedroom. Singing is a human right, we are all born with vocal chords, we are all singers. It doesn’t matter if you are in tune or not, have rhythm or soul, just sing and enjoy the feeling! If you only want to perform however, well that’s a different story. I look forward to the day when there is a more mature understanding of the impact music has upon our hearts… maybe I’ll help this attitude shift. I hope so.

This morning I came across these quotes which confirm my thoughts about the power of music when sung from the heart and a project I am about to begin. I can’t wait to get back to singing. I have missed it like a sister. I need to sing again with my sister…maybe then the ache will ease.

“Oh! How great a master is the heart! Confess it, my beloved singers, and gratefully own, that you would not have arrived at the highest Rank of the Profession if you had not been its pupils; own, that in a few lessons from it, you learned the most beautiful expressions, the most refined taste, the most noble action, and the most exquisite graces: own (even though it may seem incredible) that the heart corrects the defects of nature, since it softens the voice that is harsh, betters an indifferent one, and perfects a good one: own that when the heart sings you cannot dissemble, nor has truth a greater power of persuading: and finally, make it known (for I cannot teach it), that from the heart alone you have learned that certain indescribable charm which runs softly through all the veins and finally reaches the soul. Although the way to the heart is long and rugged, and known only to a few, a studious application will, not withstanding, master all difficulties.” (Tosi, Observations on the Florid Song (1723)) (my emphasis)

In the Baha’i writings, Baha’u’llah says,

“Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men….” (Baha’u’llah Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 295)

“Singing involves an influx of vitality and energy which is an essential element in the expression of emotion. This vital energy is often appropriately referred to as the ‘breath of life’. Bergson called it l’elan vital; the Hindus call it prana; the Chinese call it chi; in old Italian, the word fiato (breath) had this meaning in addition to its more prosaic one. It is this vital breath, not a bellows full of wind, that is the true source of vocal sound. It it is to be transformed into art, this energy must be consciously channelled; the energy must become sound….. Developing this impulse, tapping this energy, which maintaining the poise necessary for freedom of expression is, or should be, one of the first dutires of any teacher of singing. In practice, anyone with a genuine gift for singing will have felt it strongly at some time, usually triggered by a sense of tremendous well-being; that moment when singing suddenly is the easiest and most natural thing in the world – the moment of feeling perfectly balanced, full of life, and free…. It is in face the strength of this joyful impulse which usually leads people to sing in the first place.” ( Thomas Hemsley, Singing and Imagination, p.22-23)

So, inspired by these quotes, I’m going to write songs from my heart, from a deeper energy than breath alone…. to kindle my soul and let it grow. For me, singing has nothing to do with fame and the fickle romance of TV popularity. Singing is an expression of my heart, and I seek to touch other people’s hearts – otherwise what’s the point of learning how to do something so beautiful? That’s my project for today, a project that I hope will help a friend heal, in time. And one last quote, because this speaks to us all, however experienced or inexperienced we think we are:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sakes.  Now, I mean, I’m talking about singing in the shower, I’m talking about dancing to the radio, I’m talking about writing a poem to a friend–a lousy poem.”  (Kurt Vonnegut)

Oasis Singing Group in Cardiff

Every week I run a singing group for refugees and asylum seekers and anyone else who would like to come too! This used to be the Women’s Community Singing Group- but when we moved over to the Oasis Drop-in centre which is based at the Cardiff YMCA, we decided men could join in too. It’s essentially one big open space and so having just women there would have been rather difficult and also quite a few men were keen to sing with us. The singing group end on March 23rd due to the funding coming to an end – but we have had over a year of experiences singing together and also there are not as many participants now as there used to be, and so perhaps the time has come for the group to come to an end.

When I return from Kalim and my trip as ‘Creative Voice’ to China, I plan to start a singing group on Friday evenings in Cardiff – and this is probably going to link in with the Oasis group again. This will be July 2011. If you would like to join us, please email me at fleur@mysinging.co.uk Remember you do not need to have any prior experience, just enthusiasm and the desire to make new friends and sing!

Here are some photos from this group:The one above is of  my Mum, Rita and I singing – I generally move my hands about a lot! The one below shows the group learning a new song – from my conducting I think it’s probably ‘Allunde’

Women’s Community Singing Group

Fleur here:-

In 2009, Sherman Cymru organised a whole week of activities, workshops, performances and concerts for Refugee Week. The aim was to connect Refugees and Asylum Seekers living in Wales – from all different ages, cultures and backgrounds with people living in Wales.

The week was packed full of activities from dance workshops for young people with Earthfall to drama/theatre workshops with Robbie Bowman. The evening programe was rich and varied  – featuring internationally renowned poet, Benjamin Zephaniah, Comedienne, Shappi Khorsandi, a wonderful children’s production ‘Little Leap Forward’ and a discussion on the role of theatre in places of crisis with with Hua Dan (China), Ice and Fire (UK) and Theatre versus Oppression (working in Uganda).

We ran a Women’s Community Choir for Refugee and Welsh ladies, preparing for many weeks leading up to Refugee Week with choir leader, Rabab Ghazoul, and with myself leading the week of rehearsals and the choir at the performance at the end of the week. The choir was attended by over thirty women during the course of it’s many rehearsals – and so the Community Engagement department at Sherman Cymru decided to continue supporting the choir – renaming it a Community Singing Group – with the goal to have the weekly sessions as an activity to foster friendships and connections between refugee, asylum seeker and Welsh ladies – and generally be creative through our voices!

I was asked to lead the singing group from May 2010- and it has now gone from strength to strength with 15 women attending the last session! We used to meet at the Welsh Refugee Council, Phoenix House, Newport Road and we now meet at the YMCA (off The Parade) in Cardiff from1pm-2.30pm – and we have members from many different countries, backgrounds, abilities and ages! Some of the ladies bring their small children, who play in the creché corner, or dance around us, or sing with us also. Since October 2010 we have also included men in the singing group and so we are now a Community Singing Group open to each and all!

The singing group has become a place where people can try out a new skill, get to know each other, eat together and for the refugee men and women to feel a sense of being at home with friends, where thinking and worrying about asylum claims or the every day worries of the world can be shelved for a few hours. One regular attendee called the group ‘yoga for the brain’. I like this, as it brings a sense of peace and balance – which is the power of the creative arts.

The singing group is free of charge (supported by Sherman Cymru and the Oasis Drop-in centre) and we are still looking for members. So please contact me by email: fleur@mysinging.co.uk if you are interested in joining us! No experience is necessary – just a willingness to learn simple songs from around the world, to chat over a cuppa and make friends!

Sherman Cymru Women’s Community Singing Group – performing at the Welsh Refugee Council’s 20th birthday party at Holland House, The Mercure Hotel, Cardiff.

 

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