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

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I trust myself (in Romania!)

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In April, my husband and I travelled to La Chappele D’Abondonce to a Bahá’i Spring Camp in the French Alps. There I taught a group of adults from France and Belgium singing every afternoon and on the final evening we performed our songs to the audience. We had a wonderful time together, they learnt new songs in English and I learnt some songs in French. There was also a theatre course, an art course and a Musical Theatre course for the children. I had taught singing at this camp once before, a few years ago and also at the Bahá’i Summer School in Evian (which I’ve posted about before), all through the supreme management skills and encouragement of my dear friends Guita and Willo.

On my course was a lady called Della, an American Bahá’i who now lives in Bucharest in Romania. She became a good friend of Ramin and I, we ate many meals together and I was fascinated by her research in Romania for her book ‘Her Eternal Crown- Queen Marie of Romania and the Bahá’i Faith‘. Well Della came to my course one day asking if I would be interested in coming to Romania as she was sure the Bahá’is there would love to experience the kind of singing workshops I run. I was interested, but the dates seemed a little close to the Welsh Summer School I was already committed to (running workshops on Opening up Creative Channels at the grass roots). However she assured me that the National Assembly of the Bahá’is of Romania had invited me, through her, and they would be in touch soon.

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A few weeks later, I had sorted out my dates and agreed to go to the Romanian Bahá’i Summer School, travelling the day after the Welsh one had ended – and on August 25th I found myself catching a flight to Sibiu!

The Welsh Summer School had been full of singing as the UK Bahá’i Choir had rehearsed and performed there all week, with myself joining them in the mornings. I was already full of the joys of being with my dear friends and singing my heart out the day before – so I left the UK with the excited anticipation of travelling to another country, meeting new friends (of course seeing Della again) and welcoming them all into a world of song.

I had the most wonderful week. The people in the summer school, Romanian Bahá’is and their friends (as well as new friends from Italy, France, two Americans, a family from Algeria and my lovely Room-mate Elizabeth from the Dominican Republic) were so friendly, interested in me, helpful and gracious. I never once felt lonely or over-crowded. Every meal time was a great opportunity to meet and chat with new people, young and old alike. One lady aged 75 didn’t speak English (the only one!) and I was sad not to be able to chat with her, but then I found out she spoke a little German and we were able to communicate after all!

I ran a singing session with the children on the first morning (a prayer ‘Blessed is the spot’ that we sang in the final evening), morning sessions with the youth and  afternoon sessions with the whole school. There were two great musicians, Aladdin and Varqa who quickly learned the chords and played guitar along with our songs and Rares (The School’s organiser) typed up the words, projecting them on the wall behind us. Almost everyone loved singing and just needed to believe in themselves a little more, a few of the older youth didn’t want to sing but I had great chats with them once lunch time.

The youth composed some lovely songs and sang Rosanna Lea’s composition of the words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, ‘Let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path’ really well, even managing a second harmony.

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Overall I had a fantastic time and I would love to go back. It was very moving to be singing about ‘Abdu’l-Baha while standing in front of a large group of Romanian Bahá’is and thinking how happy this would have made Him. I felt my Mum was with me too, I often felt her singing along with the complete joy and enthusiasm that epitomised her singing.

Am încredera mia (I am confident also I trust myself)

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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.

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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

New Year – New Projects

-By Fleur:

It’s 2011 and I’m feeling excited, hopeful, curious and keen along with a large helping of anticipation about the events and experiences this year will bring. The thing is, the New Year isn’t going to bring me anything really – is it! It’s going to be a year when I bring far more to the table of my life. I have some solid resolutions – some personal – some I’m willing to share with yourselves, maybe now, maybe later – which have ignited a fire in my soul and which have changed my perception of my life and even my own self – let alone the way I am relating to the world around me.

My Creative Voice projects (resolutions) for 2011 are as follows:

‘Soundscape’ project in China

Kalim and I are working on a funding application which will enable us to visit China for 6 weeks- 2 months in the summer. The deadline is this coming Saturday and so I am currently focused on the application and all the letters of support and other information I need. If we are successful with our funding bid then we will be volunteering for Hua Dan (www.hua-dan.org) in ChengDu and working with young people who are survivors of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and with children of migrant workers. We will be devising a ‘soundscape’ performances and recording with the young people, telling a story through singing and beat-boxing techniques, speech sounds and imitation of nature and machines. More about this – when/if successful! As you can imagine, we are both truly excited about this opportunity. I lived for 10 months in ChangChun, North East China in 1998-1999 and even though it wasn’t always easy for me and I experienced dramatic culture shock, I learnt so much when I was there and developed such amazing friendships that I have looked back at that time with great fondness. FIngers crossed!

My creative literary voice

I have been writing short stories, chapters of books, poems and lyrics since I was about 10 years old. English was my favourite subject at school, reading was my favourite past-time (as my parent’s quote back at me – I once dumped a boy (I think I was about 14) with the words, “I’d rather read a book than go out with you!”) and writing was a form of expression which took me into another world – where anything was possible and everything was wonderful.

Those of you who know me personally and those who have been attentive to my web-presence (there isn’t much of one, but it’s there!) will know that Victoria Leith and myself compiled and edited a book back in 2005 called ‘Make a Difference in Just One Day’ which was a collection of diary entries from all around the world, all written on the International Day of Peace (21st September) where people from all walks of life had a go at doing something for peace in their local community, with their family and friends. This wonderful, inspiring, moving and heart-connecting book is still yet to be published, but hopefully will be available to buy this year, as we have one publisher making happy noises!

My resolution for this year however, is to write a novel – working at it, chipping away at it and believing in it so that it is ready to be read by 2012. I have written about a third of a science-fantasy novel already, but lost my faith in it and got all stuck on what would be and what wouldn’t be possible – so it’s still waiting to bloom into something magical. I might pick up from where I left off and just get it written – damn it! Or, I might continue with the idea I had (a murder-mystery set in Cardiff) when I wrote for two days (only two days! my oh my)  as part of the amazing world wide phenomenon which is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) back in November 2010. Maybe I’ll write from a totally different angle and include my experience of my husband’s journey with MS and my life in Germany. Can I handle that one yet? Whatever I write, even if it’s unpublishable and just for the fun of writing – it WILL BE DONE! It has to be…

‘Seed’ House Concerts

One nice thing that’s coming up is a weekend of performances in Northamptonshire. My good friend and very talented composer, Richard Leigh has asked me to sing many of the songs from his recent album, ‘Seed’ (prayers and writings from the Baha’i faith) – which is so lovely as I adore these songs, and I love performing with Richard. They are called the ‘Seed House Concerts’ and will be the second time I have sung these songs with him. When I lived in Northamptonshire many moons ago, we formed a band called ‘Kai’ and wrote an album’s worth of songs together, which we performed with Anne Sparkes. Richard on piano, guitar, viola, violin and backing vocals, Anne on Marimba, percussion and backing vocals and myself on vocals and (for one song!) violin. Singing in ‘Kai’ was a bliss and I do miss those days.

My resolution on this front is to write another album’s worth of songs this year and find a group of people to help me perform them. Kalim and I are definitely going to be rehearsing more songs together – as we intend to perform in China also.

So, what are your creative resolutions from 2011? Let this be the year that books get finished, albums get written, songs get sung and paintings get painted and framed! It doesn’t really matter what the final result is – it’s the process of sculpting, expressing, emoting, absorption and discovery which is what I am committing myself to. How about you?