UK Bahá’í Choir in Edinburgh

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The fabulous Alto section!

My husband, Ramin and myself have joined the UK Bahá’í Choir – and this weekend travelled up to Edinburgh for a full weekend’s rehearsal. We joined about 25 other choir members from all over the UK, made many new friends and caught up with friends from years ago! I was so happy to see my dear friends Carolyn Sparey-Fox and Jeremy Fox who we thoroughly enjoyed being with in Evian Summer School a few years ago. I also loved being in the beautiful new Edinburgh Bahá’i Centre!

The month leading up to the Choir weekend, we put aside time every other day to listen to and learn the songs from the Tenor CD and the Soprano CD we had burned, after downloading the songs from the Choir’s website. I was really impressed with the organisation of the website – where you can download the song-sheets and vocal tracks, making it much easier to learn. Ramin found it a bit tough as he doesn’t read music, so I gave him a few lessons and now he know how long to sing various notes! Great brain-training for him.

Even though the pieces we sang are quite different from the pieces I was teaching the choir in South Wales, I did enjoy the challenge of singing in a more classical style again. I love that point where I have warmed up and can sing more fluently, where even the high notes are easily achievable. I realised I need this kind of singing to keep my voice strong – and my mind focused. We performed seven pieces at a Musical Devotional, organised by the Edinburgh Bahá’í Community on the Sunday, including readings from the Bahá’í writings and songs from local friends (I should have remembered to have taken back a programme, as I then could have told you their names!).

The camaraderie in the choir is really wonderful. Cosma, our Musical Director and Conductor, is full of energy, smiles, encouragement and enthusiasm. His sweet analogies are adorable, and his technical knowledge and feel for the music are exceptional. He is also very patient with the various suggestions, comments and (only sometimes) complaints.

I loved the diversity of the group, there are representatives from all ages and walks of life including members who now live in the UK and come from far-flung countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe and Iran. I love that the choir sings pieces from the Bahá’i writings, but there are many members who are not Bahá’is. I love that in the morning Devotionals, there is more singing/chanting of prayers than reading. I also love LOVE love that some of the choir members are also composers who have offered their work for the choir to sing. This has inspired me to compose and arrange my music for a four part choir. So watch this space!

So, I am interested in assisting those who would like to learn the songs and sing in the Choir (We are looking for about 10 new members!)  – perhaps setting up a few day or weekends in Bristol, or in Cardiff – I’m not as technically gifted as Cosma, but I have enough experience and buckets of enthusiasm to be able to conduct a choir with these pieces. I’m also able to give singing techniques and lessons in a group – which would be helpful.

So if you would like to join the UK Bahá’í Choir and live in South Wales or nearby – contact me and lets get singing! You can email me: creativevoicewales@gmail.com

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

Singing and singing and encouraging and singing!

The ‘All-Wales Baha’i Choir’ (working title) have their first rehearsal this coming Sunday with our new recruits! We began the choir back in January, forming specifically to be able to contribute music to the Regional Baha’i festival, held in Llandrindod Wells. We sang two songs, ‘Look at me, follow me’ (written for the World congress in New-York in 1992) and ‘The Photograph’ (written by Robert Bennet and Alan Mackay from Shetland)– both celebrating the life and pure example of ‘Abd‘u’l-Baha. My Dad played the guitar and everyone really enjoyed either being part of the singing or listening to us perform.

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For this performance we had one afternoon rehearsal, the songs were posted on Sound Cloud for people to be able to sing along with at home, and then we had one hour practising together the afternoon of the performance. I was so proud of the group, as everyone sang so beautifully, even including some members who joined just at the last minute and had literally just one hour to practise!

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Since then I’ve been gently encouraging people to join, reassuring them that all experience and all ages are welcome and planning the songs to sing at the Welsh Baha’i Summer School which was on the last weekend of August. I ran two singing workshops, like taster sessions for the choir, and Dad and I ran an evening of singing together with the whole school. I had about 20 people in my first workshop, about 15 in the second and over 150 sang with us (and Geoff, Michaela and Mike on guitars and harmonies.) on Saturday night. As part of the workshop we read a few beautiful quotes from ‘Abd’u’l-Baha about the effect of music:

“The art of music is divine and effective. It is the food of the soul and spirit. Through the power and charm of music the spirit of man is uplifted…”

“…A fine voice when joined to beautiful music causes a great effect, for both are desirable and pleasing. All these have in themselves an organisation, and are constructed on natural law. Therefore, they correspond to the order of existence like something which would fit into a mold. A true voice fits into the mold of nature. When it is so, this effects the nerves and they affect the heart and spirit.”

The feedback from the workshops and the evening sing-a-long was amazing! So many hugged and thanked Dad and I for organising a space for everyone to sing. Many people felt they really wanted to join the choir now and one lady was keen to start a singing group up in Cheshire.  We sang on the final morning, as part of the closing devotional and my niece, Zia, sang the lead solo of ‘Evening Rise’ with Sarah singing behind her for support.

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Dad and I also sang some songs with the Baha’i community at our Cluster Reflection Meeting in Rodgerstone at the beginning of August and the children joined us to sing ‘God Sufficeth’ and ‘From the three wives of Abraham’ (a song about the messengers from God teaching mankind through revelation that is progressive – according to the spiritual capacity of the people of the time).

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So now we have a membership of around 20 choir members from all over South Wales, and are looking forward to singing together throughout this next year. We decided to hold the rehearsals once a month, around the region so that as many people as possible can join us. We’re going to see how this works, whether we need interim rehearsals and how much support the creativevoicewales.com site can provide. It’s so wonderful to have inspired and encouraged friends from all around to engage in singing together, and hopefully this will feed back into the local communities, creating more confidence to sing at feasts, firesides, devotionals and other gatherings.

One more piece of news, I have asked around (on facebook) to find out if anyone would be interested in learning how to run a singing group, and so far six people have responded positively! For this training I will be running a weekend in Wales and a weekend in Reading – so please get in touch (via the creativevoicewales.com website) if you would like to join this group. This means potentially six singing groups will be started up next year – how wonderful!

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New Direction

As you may or may not know, Kalim ‘Tangent’ Bartlett is now living in China, in the vibrant city of Chengdu in Sichuan province. Creative Voice has taken a new direction therefore, and is mainly focused on singing and writing projects. There may be a time when Kalim and I work together again, we are brother and sister after all – and both passionate about music and empowering others. But for now, we live on different continents and so are in different creative worlds.

kalim in china mid-beat

My creative voice has recently been immersed in developing my voice as a writer. I took part in Sherman Cymru’s ‘Spread the Word’ writing course, meeting other local writers and feeling inspired and uplifted by the down-to-earth approach of our tutor, Alan Harris and his wealth of experience. Both him and Sian Summers gave me some excellent feedback on the skeleton structure of the play I am working for, ‘The Child in Me’, which I need to submit by mid July. Three of our pieces will be presented as Rehearsed Readings in Sherman Cymru this summer, and of course I am hoping that mine is one of the chosen ones. However, I am not too attached to that thought, the support I have received so far from this course has been invaluable and I finally feel creatively unblocked!

On a musical and Baha’i note, my father, Viv Bartlett and I are preparing a bunch of songs to take around the Baha’i community as ‘Musical Firesides’. Dad plays the guitar (and sings harmonies) and I sing (as I think you all know!). The aim is to sing some of the Baha’i community songs from waaaay back (golden oldies) as well as pieces we have composed and more modern songs written by other Baha’i musicians. Mum is enjoying singing along with us too, and I think this cheers her up enormously as she is currently battling cancer and has less energy than she would like. Hopefully our musical gift will be well rehearsed by the end of the summer, we can have a trial run at the summer school in Wales and then  start to tour around South Wales, Bristol and maybe even further in the Autumn.

Dad, Bill and Leo

I am also developing music for the All-Wales Baha’i Choir, which began in January of this year (we sand for the first time at the Regional Festival in Llandrindod Wells) and I am excited that a few more people have agreed to join us! Regular choir (read ‘singing group’ here) sessions will start in July. Watch this space for details!

Here is a taster of one of the songs we’ll be singing. It’s called ‘Remember my Days’, the words are extracts from the Tablet of Ahmed and from the Gleanings of the writings of Baha’u’llah. The picture is from May 2011, with myself sitting just outside the shrine of Baha’u’llah. Enjoy listening on this lovely sunny evening in June.

https://soundcloud.com/creativevoice/remember-my-days

Shrine of Baha'u'llah 8 Fleur

Creative Voice Wales . Com

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Hey singing peeps – there’s a new Creative Voice website on the scene! Check it out! it’s lovely and colourful and friendly! http://www.creativevoicewales.com

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)

The Tree of Shoes

                      The Tree of Shoes

In Grandma’s back garden is a magical tree which sometimes grows apples and sometimes grows shoes!

When Golden puts the shoes on, she enters a magical world where her Welsh and Chinese grandparents teach her how to be a hero, or maybe she teaches them.

How can Golden become a hero?

How will she overcome the dragons?

How can she find the courage to say goodbye?

A play for children aged 7-10 years (all ages welcome!).

Written & directed by Fleur Missaghian

Tuesday 4th September
16.00, ATRiuM Theatre (CB4), University of Glamorgan

Book free tickets by emailing creativevoicewales@gmail.com

Little dolls that guided us up the Great Wall of China

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Learn How to BeatBox

Learn how to Beatbox

Young or youthful in heart, active or sedentary, male or female  – it is never too late to start beatboxing. All you need is a pair of lungs, a voice, patience and a good teacher. Kalim Bartlett, AKA ‘Beatbox Tangent’, has been teaching Beatboxing in schools for over two years alongside competing in National Beatboxing competitions, collaborating with artists in the UK and abroad and regularly meeting up with his fellow Beatboxing crew in London to jam together and enjoy the natural buzz of making music with the voice alone (see photo above).

Based in South Wales, Kalim is setting up the Creative Voice Beatboxing Academy – and is looking for young people to join the 12-15 group, the 16-19 group and the 19+ group. He will also have some (limited) slots available for private tuition for those who are really keen to get those beats flowing!

Contact Kalim at creativevoicewales@gmail.com to let him know your interest, with ‘BBox lessons’ as the subject title.

International Women’s Day 2012

Fleur……

The day I had my interview at Uni Glamorgan was the day I was told I could have a bursary that would cover my University fees, living expenses and materials allowance (books, USB sticks etc) and was the day I went to my first seminar, on Research methods. It was unbelievable – yet felt so right as the door just opened wide…. I feel very grateful.

So, in the light of this new step, and on International Women’s Day, I would like to share the words of an incredible theatre director from America called Anne Bogart’. I have this written out and up on my study wall – to remind myself daily to move forward and enjoy the journey.

“….how to handle the resistances…your circumstances might offer; Do not assume that you have to have some prescribed conditions to do your best work. Do not wait. Do not wait for enough time or money to accomplish what you think you have in mind. Work with what you have right now. Work with the people around you right now. Work with the architecture you see around you right now. Do not wait for what you assume is the appropriate, stress free environment in which to generate expression. Do not wait for maturity or insight or wisdom. Do not wait until you are sure that you know what you are doing. Do not wait  until you have enough technique. What you do now, what you make of your present circumstances will determine the quality and scope of your future endeavours. And, at the same time, be patient.”

Anne Bogart. A Director Prepares

Well it’s been a few months since I last checked in. How are you? Are you well and happy? I hope so. A lot has happened since our trip to China. I’ve moved house, started University again and see my future in a very different light. China was the catalyst to huge changes – a place where I had the space and inspiration to jump out of my box and into a different way of thinking.

I’m now studying a Masters in Drama at University Glamorgan (in Cardiff). It was in China that the idea began to study again. I was inspired by the Applied Drama work employed by Hua Dan, especially hearing stories about the work with female migrant workers in Beijing as well as the project Kalim and I were a part of in Mien Yang. Over dinner one day, pondering my future, Jess tentatively suggested doing an MA and after that spent a long time with me, discussing drama and suggesting I read ‘House of Games’ by Chris Johnston and other such key texts. I sat in the baking hot Hua Dan office one afternoon (fanning myself continually) immersed in the concept of Invisible Theatre from ‘Games for actors and non actors’ by Augusto Boal and realised I had to make the jump. I remember Kalim and I walking in the sun to buy doughnuts one Sunday. We were talking about what we would do when we returned to the UK and Kalim really encouraged me to apply for the course, telling me to believe in myself and know that I can achieve huge goals. I had no idea how I could afford to do an MA, or what work I could find to support  Ramin and myself while I studied. I just had faith that doors would open if I was meant to go in that direction.