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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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 on Sunday – come join us!

Next singing session is on Sunday 27th October, in the Glais Hall in Swansea, from 1-5pm. Everyone welcome – children and adults alike. Please contact Fleur for directions (and attendee numbers) if you would like to come!

This choir is holding it’s rehearsals all around South Wales, to enable Baha’is and their friends to attend and to uplift the spirits by singing together. Getting to know each other as friends and being creative together as a spiritual activity is as important as the actual activity! If anyone would like to join us from outside Wales, you are most welcome too!

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Photo: First choir rehearsal in Abercarn, Gwent.

Abercarn Baha’i Choir Rehearsal

The rain came, and the singers came and the children came! We had a great day, singing together, laughing, drinking tea and coffee and plenty of water (of course) and eating cake and watermelon. Altogether eleven adults and four children and one baby attended the first (this time around) Baha’i Choir rehearsal, travelling from as near as Pontllanfraith and as far away as Swansea. Dad and I swept the basement flat free from cobwebs, swept the floor and pre-painted the walls (!) a few days before, the living room big enough for seventeen people to seat comfortably and the high ceilinged kitchen a great place for learning harmonies with a smaller group.

At 12.30pm most people arrived, with their packed lunches and we served hot drinks and chatted amicably together as we ate lunch. A knock at the door and Carol, a lady from Cardiff who had connected with me through the Facebook ‘Creative Voice’ page was at the front door! I was so impressed with her bravery, travelling up the valleys and turning up to sing with a bunch of complete strangers to join in with everything. I could see she was having a great day as the choir members (most of whom had sung with me in Summer School this August) were welcoming and friendly – and she’s coming to the next rehearsal, so she must have had a good time!

I was pleased that we had a range of ages in the choir too. It is so important that children sing with adults and music is a natural part of their lives and four children joined  us! My nine year old niece, Zia, stayed for the whole practice and the others joined in with a few songs, went off to play in the rest of the house and then came back again to sing at the end. I think the age range of the choir now ranges from aged 5 to 72! Brilliant!

At this rehearsal I taught the following songs, ‘Tue Tue’ (briefly – as part of the warm-up) ‘Building Bridges’ (melody and higher harmony) and ‘God sufficeth’ (with Dad on guitar), ‘Allunde’, ‘As I went down to the river to pray’ (melody and lower harmony) and ‘Give love one more chance’.  The lyrics for these and videos (more coming soon!) can be found on my website, creativevoicewales.com Everyone concentrated so beautifully, singing their hearts out with great gusto and I felt they learned the songs very quickly. The sound of melodies and harmonies together was fantastic – and I had goose bumps when we sang ‘As I went down to the river to pray’.

I have to say, running choir sessions is one of my all-time favourite things to do. I particularly enjoyed running the singing course in the Baha’i Arts Academy for a few years as it gave me a chance to sing all week, to encourage and inspire people from all over the UK and abroad who loved singing but often felt disempowered and shy to sing in front of others and to rearrange and work with all different kinds of songs – witnessing new harmonies and arrangements come to life. In the French Baha’i Summer School in Evian, France 2011 I worked with the Le Deun family to bring choir sections to their compositions and felt such joy as I stood in the middle of the stage, feeling the vibrations of the music through my bare feet and letting the beautiful sound created by the singers, violins, penny-whistle, piano, drums and piano wash over and around me.

So I’ve now brought it all home, to sing in Wales with my family and friends and it’s so exciting to record songs, work on arrangements and harmonies, find new music and bring them to life in a room full of lovely people all wanting to cheer the hearts of our future audience.

There are a few things I’ve learned from yesterday’s rehearsal. I would like to delegate a few tasks so that I can concentrate more on the music and my role as conductor. I think we need a coordinator who can arrange car-pooling and the rehearsal schedule. Also someone needs to take over the role of providing refreshments and washing up – making sure everyone feels a homely sense of having a nice cuppa and piece of cake. Perhaps we also need someone who can provide some other artistic activities for the children, so that they can enjoy singing with us, but then have fun in another creative way – as four hours of singing is perhaps too much for young children?! Any takers for these roles?

I’m looking forward to the next rehearsal on October 27th, and I’m beginning to wonder if we can’t have twice monthly meetings? Hmmmmmm…..

(Photo is from a weekend school in Wiltshire last year. I promise to post up-to-date photos of the Wales choir soon!)

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

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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