This year, I returned to the 33rd annual Women & Spirituality Conference to lead two Songtaneous sessions. Due to my Between project (and life in general) I had been away from the conference for a couple of years. So while I was feeling excited to get into a room full of singers, I was feeling some nerves about facilitating and “making things work” for participants.
Sometimes it’s not about you. *smile*
The two sessions I hosted were completely wonderful and entirely different from each other. Each one was so satisfying and while I think that I facilitated the sessions well, in the end the what happened during the sessions had less to do with me than it had to do with the intention and energy of the singers who showed up.
And, I mean showed up. With their nerves and their shyness about singing in front of others or their lack of experience or their singing trauma. They came in the room willing to sing and supported each other with such ease and joy. I have been taking a class in which we are discussing the power of intention and I could see it here. These women intended to share and connect and build community and we did.
My Saturday singers were energetic and a bit boisterous. In this group of 12-13 singers, we explored harmonizing and holding the rhythmic groove. Friends delighted and flat-out astonished each other with their inventions and ideas, especially when we worked with personal language. We invented music and I shared some of the songs from my Between shows this past winter and some newer songs with the group and they sang beautifully. We sang and laughed til tears came to our eyes and our time together flew by.
Sunday morning was a more intimate group – I sang with four other singers. With this smaller group I got to share more about my own journey with spontaneous singing and the life lessons it helps me discover. I talked about how we make up rules that don’t exist and construct narratives that aren’t necessarily true. How these rules and stories can make us feel stuck and incapable. During one exercises, one of the singers got stuck. We finished the round and then stopped to discuss briefly. When singing spontaneously, I always strive to talk through stuck before it becomes “failure.”
I used the analogy of a closed door and talked about how we all have doors. Sometimes we know about the door, sometimes we see it looming in the distance and other times doors just … appear. I have learned through improvising that there are many workable and wonderful ways to approach a closed door. (And that the goal isn’t always getting through the door. Sometimes it’s what we learn about ourselves as we encounter a door.)
With both groups, I got to talk about how singing together is a model for community making. When we sing in a group, we have to hold our individual parts (identity) while blending with all the others in the ensemble (community).
I was moved when one of the women shared that, in singing with us, she learned why she came to the conference and to my Songtaneous workshop in particular. She shared how the song I had taught them inspired an idea for how she could work with her own poetry using melody, repetition and space. I again felt strongly the force that singing is for me and the wonder and wonders it continues to bring into my life.