Appreciating the simple gift of music as a musician
Appreciating the simple gift of music as a musician
People love to sing, people love to be a part of singing groups – it feels great to open up and expose yourself loud and raw.
When you watch children sing they have no hesitation in opening their mouths and going for it. Essentially adults are no different... apart from years of contraction, self-judgment, amongst many more reasons, and the list goes on.
Belief systems about having to be good enough before you can sing had a strangling hold that prevented me from singing for years – along with the quiet whispers and giggles from others. Having the musicians around you and the environment where you are supported, held, encouraged and allowed to go there without judgment or criticism is not generally available.
Music in primary school was for me a great marker for how singing can feel. Being involved in singing ensembles later in life as a part of my musical training was loaded with doing it ‘correctly’ – reading the music written down, and being paranoid that it was not correct or good enough. Your sense of self worth was based upon your contribution to the group and you could feel the rating and status systems being put in place like what was experienced at high school – essentially a competition, no different to sport – the game of who is the winner or the top dog. Hence participants contract and withdraw to protect themselves from being crushed or criticized. This didn’t exist in primary school. I remember standing in the group of boys and we were just singing and enjoying the space between us, with no trying to outdo each other or be acknowledged more than another, just singing, sharing and having fun – enjoying the moment for what it was.
Where is the encouragement and holding of the people who want to have a go?
I have had the grand opportunity of playing regularly with Chris and Jenny James’ band at community choirs. My musical ability and the opportunity to sing and share music as a musician can sometimes be forgotten by myself for what an amazing opportunity it can be. Singing is an expression and the playing of a musical instrument to support singing is something not everybody has in their homes. I have been embracing the opportunity to take my guitar with me whenever meeting up with friends or family; once the ball gets rolling with people singing everyone embraces it and always there are comments about how wonderful it is to have music in their home. There is something about singing that makes you feel good, like exercising – we all know we should do it but that doesn’t mean that we do. It is a simple innate gift to allow the flow of singing through the body. Often I have taken for granted the ability to create a space to share music, but for others having this opportunity is not so available so it can be a real gift.
The critic as kill-joy
TV music shows and talent quests have not helped at all as it feels to me that they have allowed and encouraged everyone to be a critic. It is now a battlefield with judges who can identify what was not perfect with an artist’s performance, then tell them, even though in many cases they themselves can’t do any better or live up to the kind of expectation they are critiquing about. There is too little acknowledgement of the individual’s expression and assisting them to expand on what they have to share. How sad we have become as a society when devaluing or humiliating another has become national TV entertainment. This is why I never watch these shows. What are they trying to achieve?
The real joy of music is when everyone present feels an equal part of the contribution.
The pure joy of comm-unity
Each week when we present in the community choir there is a unity that everyone feels. Singing from this space of unity is a moment of magic when there are no barriers or resistance between everyone in that room.
The look on the faces of first-timers is one of shock and amazement as they come to grips with what they were just a part of. Having been involved with music for 20 years from the stage as a performer to teaching high school and running bands it is not the normal experience to join a singing group for the first time and create a sound together that is of such outstanding quality. My personal experience has been of playing in a band for 6 months to a year before there is a real tight sense of knowing where each member is going and communicating with each other without words and even without visual gestures. Having played with each other for many hours you develop an understanding of how they work and where they are heading – it becomes something that you sense. So based on this as my life experience it should not be possible for an ensemble to come together on the night and join in such unity, but this is what happens and it is magical and everyone feels it.
I have come to realise that for the regular attendees in our singing group, this time is something that they look forward to. It is a time to truly be held and allowed to open up without fear. What a tremendous gift and privilege it is to be a part of this, and something that I am feeling to acknowledge in myself to not tone down how precious this is for everyone.