The Singing Soul

Shirley Cameron attended a recent Singing Soul: Improvisational Acapella led by David Hatfield at The Haven.

We participants were a diverse group with different levels of experience and musical skills and all voices were heard, welcomed and appreciated, all experiences and growth supported. Some of you jumped right in and others, like me, lagged behind watching how it went for a while. David chose exercises that led from simple group experiences to all out improv – singing, voice, sound, musical, weird, exciting, eerie, melodic, beautiful, groovy, raunchy. We learned to listen to each other, truly listen, with our minds and bodies in order to join in expressing ourselves through vocal percussion, movement and joyous noise.

I worked at my edge: sang solo even though I believed I was not good enough; learned that anything is good enough, it’s all in the way you express whatever it is. I suppose I learned most from my failures; talking to others about what happened for me and getting ideas on how to create something that works better for me next time (though there never is a next time that is anywhere near the same as it’s all improv).

All you need for this course is a voice, actually you could do it without, just by clapping or stamping your feet or whapping your body and breathing. I had a cold and could hardly sing, only really low notes with breakthrough into really loud top notes and nothing in the middle. There were the sounds of breath, movement, getting into it body and soul, really letting it rip, soft and low, sweet sounds and harmonies, some words, raunchy pieces, blues, stories – oooh I’m scared how do I do this, how do I start, where do I go from here. how do we bring this together, can I stay long enough to go from here to there when I feel like this is nowhere, I hate this dirge and I want to change it. I remember thinking about how I was so afraid to open my mouth, looking at all the people watching. Not knowing what would, should, could come out and whether it would fit or not. In the end it didn’t matter – all fit, one way or the other; some things helped create a groove, a rhythm, a theme in the music, some went totally against what others were doing and changed it a bit, others helped everything fall apart, all experiences. I discovered a deep, hidden place within myself that I had never dared open before.

There was a huge cloud of fear surrounding it, like a magic spell cast long ago, with the rules that children were to be seen and not heard, go to your bedroom and cry, and put others before self and don’t hurt their feelings. At times in my life I have felt a huge longing to join in and be heard, especially in music. I think these feelings were leaked from this hidden place. Sometimes they were so strong I felt they were taking over my life. I never knew why, in my quiet family, I seemed to be so different, wanting to be heard and seen, singing or dancing or acting; I wondered what was wrong with me, what’s missing in me that I need this? This weekend I finally opened that box and found an opening to my soul, the expression of self that I’ve kept under lock and key, always seeking permission or an invitation from others, and wanting to do well whatever they wanted. I’ve learned it is, What do I want?

And what a weekend – acapella improv singing, playing, grooving, crying, being, exposing myself among others and feeling the fine vibration that hummed in my body as my self/soul sang. The problem with letting the soul have some fun and exposure is that it wants more, that part of me doesn’t want to be shut away again, it craves to be heard and seen and to come out and play, it craves to not have to be perfect, to jump in when and where it wants, how it wants, with a beat, a drum part, a scat above everything, a blues tune, a yell as loud as I can be among others who are meeting my energy and yelling just as loud, and there is no parent there to say pipe down.

Cry – can you sing and cry? A friend of mine was there and she cried all through her solo piece. The sobs came from somewhere so deep, and as each one rose a deeper one came next: and through it all she created a song. We also created joy and laughter with our crazy, singing, moving bodies. Soulful expression of feeling included our fear and hesitation and what do I do, how do I do this, you want what? How can we know ahead of time what we will do a minute later when we are up there in a four-faced line and its our turn?

I am deeply grateful to David and all the others in the group. I had the experience of feeling totally accepted and connected with myself in connecting with all of you. I loved playing with you and listening with my whole self to you and listening to and responding with myself in the moment. Wow!

The following are excerpts taken from group emails when we got home:

“The completely naked moments at the piano were so valuable.” “Thanks for listening instead of just hearing.” “I felt so honoured to witness such amazing human emotion, courageous moves, stretching, and vulnerability.” “I honour the process we all went through this weekend and my heart is full from what I witnessed in each of you as well as my own personal insights in my own development. I will strive to remember the magical moments – now that I am back into the daily routine and with that carry a more enriched view of music making, kindred spirits, the beautiful tender moments as well the wonderful laughs that came from the weekend. Thank you David for setting the stage, bringing the tools, and facilitating in a way that set an example of the course material itself, that being one of connection, change, authenticity and integral interaction in each moment I really appreciate your gifts as well as your intention for us all to get something of meaning this weekend.”

And from David: “A deep, most integrated, most soul-connected, swinging’, swain’, funk, bump, afro, gospel, sacred, soulful, blues, chant, jam, feelin’, mashup that I have ever had the immense enjoyment and privilege of witnessing. We rocked it repeatedly. You’ve helped me realize yet again and anew how profound our untapped wells of inspiration in fact are and how little we need to find the shine inside, how the voice is the muscle of the soul and how good it feels to connect.”

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