Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why Me? Why this Choir?

Why? (pause) ... why? Why? WHy? WHY? Why?! Why does it seem like I always have to prove myself and thus feel like I need to defend myself?

That’s the question I ask myself after a call I placed recently to inform someone about my blog. Rather, to explain or justify my background for directing a children’s co-creative choir. My blog details my background, at least to some extent.

Oh, interestingly enough I forgot one major component! I had conducted a children’s choir when I was a member of a particular church many years ago. I had forgotten because I no longer attend that church. (I must say though, I was proud of the children singing so sweetly, especially to a song I had to teach them that I created into a simple round.)

So you see, I know I can do this, i.e., conduct a children’s choir. Whether people believe me or not, that is up to them and their choice. People will believe what they want to believe, just as they see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear. I'm not perfect either! ; )

If it sounds like I might be a bit angry or defensive, well perhaps I am a bit, but think of it more as passion, passionately angry for a cause, or rather, causes, and rightfully so. You see I already wrote down the reasons for this choir, my vision and mission statements for it. (My first posting describes more in detail how the idea originated.)

I also know that there are many layers, undercurrents if you will, to it, that are positive and important. For instance, one of the reasons for the choir is to have, actually create a place, a safe place for children to not only express themselves, but also a (safe) place to belong to.

Do you know how many children/youth feel like they don’t belong, don’t count, don’t matter, don’t feel like they’re important. This applies whether they’re at home, school, with friends, and so on.

I’m not saying that all children feel that way or feel that way all the time or that you - as parents/caregivers etc. - don’t love or care for them. I’m speaking about their perception of themselves! (And that’s a different story, believe me! More about that in another posting.)

Do you also know that one of the major causes of death for children and youth (in North America) is suicide, which apparently has been on the increase over the past decade or two?

Do you know that one of the (kick-butt) reasons that propelled me to start this choir is from people who shared with me their experience of a loss or potential loss of a youth, someone they know who either committed or attempted suicide? (More about this in another posting.)

So you may get the gist of why I feel so passionate about this choir. There are a variety of other reasons of course. These are only two for my choir’s existence, raison d’être (pardon the pun regarding the above). That is why I feel committed, moved, shaken, driven to do this, to succeed. And that is why I may appear intense to some. I’m on a mission!

I understand what I’m doing, well perhaps not business-wise as I’m learning (in) the process, but at least my vision and goals for the choir. I understand why. My heart and soul understand why. And really, truly, that’s all that matters ... at least, in my opinion. Everyone is entitled to theirs, of course! ; )

Monday, July 5, 2010

Call to Action

When Spirit speaks - whichever term you prefer to use - you're meant to heed the call. This is what is happening for me. Taking a sole (soul) step at a time.

You see, Spirit guided me to what became my dream during the wee hours a number of years ago. It felt like information downloaded in a continuous flow in my mind about a choir for children and/or youth. I got Angelic Voices as the name but have since seen it in a local newspaper advertising, what else, but, a children's choir! One reason to take action sooner! ; )

Like Marianne Williamson declares in her book, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, '...who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Yes, that is what I wondered: "I'm not a musician. I'm not a choir director." (I used to pretend to conduct though!) I'm not a this or a that, you name it." Anyone relate? However, she goes on to say, 'Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.'

It took me quite some years to realize that if I received this inspiration to begin with AND if I am still receiving information - a stream of consciousness recently flowed from 1 am to 3 am - then yes, it could happen. It is possible. Otherwise, someone else would have been divinely inspired with my idea. Thus, I believe I am meant to do this.

What turned out to be a dream, my dream, became like an itch that I couldn't relieve by scratching. It took me many years to figure out how I could go about doing this. How is this possible? How can I make this happen? I asked myself. I decided (or perhaps realized) that I could combine my expressive arts therapy training. The choir is meant to be non-traditional as I integrate the expressive arts focusing primarily on sound, movement, and art. The latter can include an array of the creative/expressive arts such as drama, puppets, and the like.

The decision to undertake the expressive arts program came about very spontaneously. Yet I believe it is a part of my strong drive to discover my passion(s), purpose, and mission in life. I believe I have come to know what it is. Phrased in positive terms it involves empowering and inspiring children and youth to be authentic and unique individuals. The vehicle is the expressive arts which I added to my mission statement before I discovered the program at Langara. I combine my life's experiences and learnings as well as my abundance of creative ideas. This includes the words, phrases, poetry, lyrics, and stories I often get in my head.

Earlier this year, strange as it may seem, I actually remembered my first love, my first passion. My main passion was singing, not dancing as I had thought, though I LOVE to dance and express myself through what I used to term creative dance/movement.

The funny thing is I started dancing at age 18 at a local disco. I was very stiff back then, feeling very self-conscious and awkward. It took me quite some time, years in fact, to loosen up and be able to move more freely.

Some people have commented that I'm a great dancer and well, I suppose I can be at times. At times when I feel the music in my heart, my soul, my body, my bones. At times when I dance with wild abandon, not caring who sees or what people think (which reminds me of the 13th century poet Rumi, 'I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.') Yet sometimes when I look at others - comparing and judging myself to others (as I automatically do being born a middle child) - I see how some people move so gracefully, so effortlessly, with finesse. And I think, I wish I could dance like that.

All these years I have been wondering about, searching for, and exploring what my passions were and there it was, in front of my nose, well actually under my mouth! All I had to do was open it up and express vocally through singing, toning, and chanting.

Since singing with the Burstin' with Broadway choir this past fall (September 2009) and especially since the beginning of this year (2010), I was led to singing workshops left, right, and centre. In that process I remembered my love for singing. I had forgotten as strange as that may sound.

Now I know that may seem unusual, but I'm reminded of the saying, 'You teach most what you need to learn.' This is the shorter version as to why:

Where I currently live, I have a roommate who sings with the Lions Gate Chorus, an a cappella chorus, where I had auditioned (first time and for the most challenging part) about five years ago, but didn't make the call so-to-speak. My other roommate often plays a lot of music with her various musical instruments, including her voice. Though I love singing, I feel like I can't impose or don't want to intrude on her process by layering my singing with her music. And sometimes, all I really do want or need is some peace and quiet.

I do have a lot of memories with sound and music though. I used to love hearing the peeling of the church bells in Holland (also known as The Netherlands) and the organ grinder (with the owner and a monkey at its side). I recall that I used to sing with my two older sisters as a young child before we went to sleep as we all shared a room at one point. I loved to harmonize with them. I remember as a youth hiding my first, small transistor radio beneath my pillow at night listening to the latest tunes and also riding, rather flying across town on my bike with my radio on full blast and singing out loud. I also had or brought in a radio to work and sang along to the tunes, listened often to my collection of records, and spent hours taping tons of dance music, mostly of top 40 hits.

Since our family didn't participate in any extracurricular school activities when I was a child, I joined a church choir as an adult. I loved singing harmony as an alto and hearing the blend of musical tones from the various choir parts and the piano. I've sang in several community choirs since then, though never solo, at least not yet.

About 11 years ago, I participated in my first chant. It was a community chant circle honouring Mother Teresa and Lady Diana around Mother's Day as they had died about the same time. A master chanter from Vancouver was leading the circle with his musicians around him. Most of the chants were sung in Sanskrit, an ancient East Indian language. I was hooked the first time, especially with an exquisite ceremony they performed during the middle of the evening. Chanting is devotional and ecstatic as it brings me (in)to a state of joy, peace, and bliss. Since then, I have often chanted at home.

Because I have felt somewhat silenced since moving into this shared living space, I have felt a very strong urge this past year to join a community choir. I hadn't sung in one for several years due to full-time work and part-time school, studying the Expressive Arts Therapy program at Langara College.

The main criteria for me in choosing a choir was that it needed to be local (on the North Shore, preferably in North Vancouver), have a sense of community, and be FUN, the most important ingredient! I discovered it quite by accident when I received an invite from a choir member's partner to the performance in May of 2009. They seemed to fit the bill so I enrolled into the Burstin' with Broadway choir shortly thereafter, submitting to a tenor role as that was the only position available.

Other than my eyes constantly averting to the soprano/alto lines, I loved being a tenor. Not only did I get to sing amongst a bunch of talented men and women, I got to hear the beautiful rich tones of the bass voices from the men nearby. Believe it or not I initially wished to be in the bass section and tried to sing with my chest voice to reach those lower octaves! ; ) I think I succeeded just a tad, but decided instead to reposition myself. So in the fall I'm singing as an alto 1 (higher alto) and perhaps eventually soprano, soprano 2 that is, not the high, high notes of soprano 1's! (I was told and believe I am a mezzo-soprano.)

So back to my dream of conducting a children's choir. I've had it for many years since pretend conducting as a youth and nurturing it quietly within my heart and soul. Always it sits there in the back of my mind. It won't leave me as a ghost haunting my waking moments.

That is why I know or rather have come to know that this desire needs to be expressed. Not only in order for me and my soul to have some peace and quiet - is that possible? - by fulfilling my dream, but also to serve children and/or youth. It is easy as one gets older to have one's soul or spirit stifled by various systems that repress, suppress, and depress. I understand!

I also realize that it is best to have ideas and input from children since they are naturally creative. Thus, I decided that this is to be a co-creative endeavour, processing not only my ideas but theirs as well as we focus on sounds and rounds (that rhymes!), and songs and chants. We move as we feel how our bodies and emotions want to express themselves. And just for (more) fun, we add a splash of art here and there in the process.

Well...I've certainly shared a long tale with you. Thanks for hanging in. Obviously I have a lot to say, but felt the need to make people aware of my background and some of the reasoning for my choir. So 'talk' with you later, hopefully soon, though much shorter! : )