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.

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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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)