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The Beginnings of the Men’s Shed Choir

A Message from the Heart

Working with the Kilcock Community Men’s Shed over the past 18 months has been a wild and wonderful journey that has really touched my heart and the heart of Eimear and all our family.

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Dad’s in the middle happily standing on rubble!

Anto Crehan

Our father, Anto Crehan, was a founding member of the Kilcock shed.  I remember him talking about the men he was meeting and the great plans that were in store for the space.  Dad was a man of great skill – some of the handiest hands ever made, and we were all delighted that he was part of something where he could share these skills and learn new skills.  He had taken up wood-turning in his 70’s and was discovering his artistic talents and enjoying the creation of beautiful things!

Dad passed away suddenly one morning whilst in the men’s shed, laughter his final gesture within this world.  It was shocking for the men who were with him, and shocking for us as a family.  We had never experienced a loss like it before.

The Transformation of Sorrow

A few weeks after Dad died, I received a call from Eimear asking if I wanted to set up a music school in Kilcock.  I thought ‘life is too short’,  I said yes and, 6 weeks later, on Dad’s 3 month anniversary, we opened the music school with huge support from the community within Kilcock.

We had decided to do a big fundraising concert for the Men’s Shed in April 2015 with the SUSO Gospel Choir.  Dad had joined the gospel choir in September 2014, and had fulfilled a life-long wish to sing solo the week before he died.  Here he is in the midst of the choir, another new project in his life.  He passed away the next morning.

Dad's gospel career!

Dad’s gospel career!

The Men’s Shed Choir is Born

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Getting official!

Eimear is passionate about everyone in the world singing!  She had the idea of the men from the Shed singing a song at the concert.  Down she went to work with them on ‘All God’s Creatures in preparation for the big night.  They weren’t listed on the poster, just down as a guest spot.

A friend of mine, Imogen Gunner, was playing violin on the night, and to her beautiful rendition of ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’ all the men rose up from different parts of the audience and approached the stage for their big number.  It was an emotional night and a huge success!

What to do in 2016 but give them a proper set and list them on the poster! There was no stopping them after that!  Full steam ahead!

 

Gathering the Blessings

The last 2 years have been filled with so many special moments.  The sadness could have overtaken us, but it didn’t.  We celebrate our father in so many ways and we see that his passing has brought such blessings to us, our family and to the wider community of Kilcock.  Every time we meet with the men we are filled with gratitude.  We are so proud of their willingness to show up and to try something new, to be excited about their achievements and to strive for more and more.  There is such comraderie in the Shed, an openness and a welcoming air for everyone who walks through the door.  Amidst the jokes and the craic, there is huge support and encouragement for each other and a genuine sense of community.

We want to say a big thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the men in the shed who have journeyed with us these past 2 years, to the community of Kilcock for your kindness, support and encouragement with our music school and to our father, Anto Crehan, who is one of our greatest teachers and guides.  We love you, we miss you and we celebrate you all the time.  You gifted us all with a beautiful legacy.

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“So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all”

Kilcock Men’s Shed Choir – Part 3

Meet the Band

One of the highlights of working with this project has been to get to work with the different musicians from the town.  We have brothers Micheál and Dermot White, Joe Cassidy and Jimmy McGeeney.

On Electric Guitar …. Michael White

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Michael White

Michael plays electric guitar and banjo in the Men’s Shed Band.

I asked him about why he started playing music:

“My earliest memory of music in our house was hearing my Dad and a friend playing two fiddles on Sunday nights in what was known as the Parlour in the 1940s.  When I was about six my Dad gave me a tin whistle, teaching me little tunes and moving on to Irish airs and jigs. Dad died when I was eleven. I always had a whistle or two from then on.  Fast forward to 1958 – the era of rock’n roll and Elvis, and cliff and the Shadows were the inspiration to get a guitar.  I had the first guitar in our parish, learned a few chords and began playing in a dance band called Gold and Silver, alongside my brother Dermot. We progressed on to playing with the Madisons Show-band.”

Michael worked as a mechanic all his life, with music as a hobby.

“I thought I’d put it all behind me until I got involved with the Men’s Shed Choir and here we go again.  I thank Mam and Dad for bringing music into my life – I always ask them to help me through a gig and they never let me down”.

And on Bass…  Dermot White

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Dermot White

Michael’s older brother, Dermot plays both electric and double bass within the Men’s Shed Band.  Alongside his brother Michael he played with the Gold & Silver Band and The Madison Showband.  The last time they played was at a farewell dance two years ago.  As you can see from the photos, they haven’t changed much over the years!

 

 

 

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Can you spot the White Brothers?

And on Acoustic Guitar…  Joe Cassidy

I first met Joe in the 2015 fundraiser for the Men’s Shed when the guys did a guest spot singing ‘All Gods Creatures’.   I asked Joe why he started playing guitar.

“Years ago I used to fish for salmon, and a friend of mine Tommy Glackin used to come and watch me fish.  Tommy was a fine guitarist, of the Donegal Glackins, and he thought that I was the best fisherman he had ever seen!  He wanted to know how to fish and I wanted to learn guitar!  A great swap.  The next day I gave him a fishing lesson and he caught a salmon! It’s taken me a bit longer to be able to play guitar so well!”

When we began working together on the album over the past few months I realised that Joe was a pretty good singer as well – a dark horse as they say!  I was so honoured to sing the Parting Glass with Joe on the album, a song dear to my own heart.

 

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Joe in the middle of the White brothers!

And on Percussion…  Jimmy McGeeney

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Jimmy McGeeney with family

In one of our final rehearsals before recording the album, we were feeling the need for a percussionist and somebody mentioned local mechanic Jimmy McGeeney was the man for the job.

The next week in came Jimmy and really helped transform what was already good into something great!  Jimmy began playing piano at the age of 6, winning awards in Feis Ceoil through the years.  He went on to play the drums playing all over Ireland with Bourbon St and other bands.  Jimmy hasn’t played music in the past 18 years and we are delighted to have him on board.  Rhythmic precision, great musicality and a joyful disposition means he slots into the band with grace and ease!

 

Music has such power to connect people within community.  When we play music with others, something magical happens.  We learn all the time from each other and the musical journey we have shared with all the band has been so extraordinary and memorable.  Thanks guys!  Can’t wait for the album launch!

 

Kilcock Men’s Shed Choir – Part 2

From the Men’s Side – written by Brian Lube

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My first introduction to the Men’s Shed was at their Opening Day, August 2015.  Everybody was so very impressed.

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I had just retired and I went along a few weeks later to join.  I was made to feel so welcome by everyone, meeting new friends and reconnecting with friends that I grew up with all those years ago.
When I first heard of a Men’s Shed Choir, my first reaction was to laugh and say, “You have to be able to sing to join a choir!”  But then we met Eimear and Claire Crehan from the SUSO Music School, two of the most talented, patient and encouraging ladies on this earth.  They gave us the confidence to stage a concert supported by the SUSO Gospel Choir in St. Coca’s Church, Kilcock earlier this year.   My wife made the comment, “The only time I thought I would ever see Brian up the front of the church would be in his coffin!”

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Taking the Next Step

Following the success of the concert, Eimear and Claire encouraged us to go for it and record an album.  We met each Tuesday for our choir practice, and even did some songwriting.  The title track, “The Sands of Time,” was composed by Claire, Eimear and the Men’s Shed Choir, and it has now been recorded.

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We recorded our album earlier this month and it will be launched at our next concert on Friday, 11th November in St. Coca’s Church, Kilcock.

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Who would have thought that a group of men who had never sung in public before would get the chance to perform and record with such accomplished musicians as Claire, Eimear, Mícheál and Dermot White, Joe Cassidy & Jimmy McGeeney

This proves that with the right tutelage YOU CAN TEACH OLD DOGS NEW TRICKS!

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” 

Benjamin Franklin

 

Kilcock Men’s Shed Choir – Part 1

D Day is Here!

The day has arrived!  Today we are witnessing the Kilcock Men’s Shed Choir recording their album, celebrating this wonderful journey they have been on for the past 18 months.

We have singers Mossy, Mixer, Monty, Mick, Brian, Stephen, Frank, Liam, Chris, Tony and the musicians, Michael, Dermot & Joe, and the newest addition to the family – Jimmy on percussion.

These guys are amazing.  They’ve been so dedicated and hard-working, and taking huge leaps in this singing journey, taking huge ownership of this project and becoming an unstoppable musical force!

They will be recording their own song, the title track – Sands of Time, along with some old favourites, and some collaborative pieces with the SUSO Gospel Choir, with whom they began their musical journey in April 2015.

Getting Involved

This project is more than just a few men gathering to sing together.  It is a symbol of the amazing community of Kilcock – a community of support and encouragement that allows people to grow and to try new things, to be brave and courageous!  You can get involved in a  few different ways:

Album Launch  –  Friday 11th November

Put this date in your diary!  The men will share all the songs from the album, supported by the SUSO Gospel Choir to officially launch their album.  It will take place in Kilcock Church.  Please do come along, click to attend on Facebook, share the event, spread the word, and let’s fill the church!!!

Sponsorship

We are looking for local businesses to sponsor the making of this unique project.  By sponsoring this album, you will get:

  • to contribute to the making of this unique project
  • to support community development and positive mental health
  • a credit on the sleeve of the album
  • 2 tickets to the album launch
  • a signed copy of the album
  • a Thank you on the documentary being made about this project
  • a link to your business from our website
  • a wonderful opportunity for corporate social responsibility!

Please get in touch with us for more information.

kcmshed@gmail.com / 087 2989727  or  speakupsingout@yahoo.com / 086 1923381

Be Proud and Be Inspired

These guys are great.  They faced their fears every step of the way and are following a dream, something they never thought possible.  So do be proud of them, be inspired to follow your own dream and to encourage others to do the same.

I’ll leave you with some snippets of their journey these past few weeks!

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From Heart to Heart – The Joy of Teaching

The Beginning of my Teaching Journey

I began teaching for money.  I was out of university, full of hopes for a musical life, and I was horrified by how many of my classmates were choosing teaching over a music career.  A year later, desperate to find an alternative to office temping, I was asked to take over private teaching in Blackrock.  The pay was treble what I was earning in the office, and I accepted gratefully.  But my heart wasn’t in it.  I didn’t know how to impart my musical knowledge to beginners in a way that was accessible to them, and I often found myself frustrated and watching the clock.  I know many fellow musicians that feel the same, and that teaching is often seen as a necessity to fund an artistic life.

The power of children

Something began to happen as I developed relationships with the children I was working with.  They demanded more presence.  When I was present, they were happier and they understood the material more easily in this state.  Something magical began to happen.  I realised that the tutor book I was using didn’t suit everyone, so I began to search for different methods and different ways to explain the building blocks of music to my individual students.  When I found the right way to explain something to a student, a whole new possibility for learning and understanding would open up, and our relationships began to be reciprocal.  They were teaching me all the time about so many things – about people, about music, about education, about language, about life.

I was teaching students in their own homes.  I would come in the door and the parents would have the kettle on.  I became part of their week, welcomed into their houses, and this was a very conducive environment for learning.  The children were relaxed and at ease, out of school and comfortable.

The Reciprocal Relationship

One of the greatest lessons I learnt through my teaching, is that as a teacher we play an important part in the lives of our students.  I am not just a piano teacher – I become a friend, a confidant, someone to share joy with.  For those 15 or 30 minutes a week, I had the opportunity to choose to be joyful with the children or teenagers, and through this I could help them discover more than just how to play a scale – I could share much more.  I developed a deep love for all of my students and I felt this love returned in simple ways – in the practice they would do, in their laughter, in their musical curiosity, in their willingness to try.  It is always a real pleasure when you have a student who finds piano playing easy, but they are few and far between!  For most of my students, it takes time and commitment to learn and it is such a joy to witness the result of practice, in a ‘yes’ at the end of playing something well because the student has achieved something remarkable – the translation of happiness into music!

My own magical space

I remember teaching in a school in Dublin a few years ago.  The children would come for 20 minute lessons out of class, and would often be frazzled having come out of a lesson in a different subject.  The bell would ring, the children were distracted by the noises of the school around them, and I often longed for my own space where I had control over the environment.  Somewhere I could light a candle, or get the children to lie on the floor and listen to music if they were feeling agitated.  Opening up the music school with my sister has allowed this freedom to come into my teaching.  In some of my group lessons, the children often ask to lie on the carpet and for me to play the piano.  I improvise, feeling what music is needed for the children in that moment, and I play and the children close their eyes and let go into the music.  Sometimes, one of the children will play the piano with me,  both of us improvising on the black keys, and the other children lie down.  The experience is equally great for the children – that of receiving the music, and that of making the music.  I love that the children have brought me into this new way of teaching, that their being tired and my having a space which is free has opened up this avenue for learning.

Different ways of learning

I’m so grateful that I struggled when I began teaching.  I can’t ever remember learning how to read music.  I think I was born with that ability!  I don’t recall ever learning rhythm or pitch, harmony or composition – it was all just there.  I understood.  And I have had to learn how to teach through trial and error. I am curious about how children learn.  Some of them read easily, others learn by ear.  Some practice freely, others need lots and lots of encouragement.  Each and every student demands something different and this is such a joyous challenge!

Finding Balance within an Artistic Life

A couple of years ago I decided to give up teaching.  I wanted something more.  I was driving about 2-3 hours a day up and down to Dublin, driving the same roads from house to house, and it was becoming draining on my life.  I felt like I was constantly unsettled and felt that my whole musical interaction with the world was at a beginner level all the time.

I let go of the teaching and within a few months, I missed all the children.  I realised that I need this interaction in my life.  I love seeing my students come through the door of the music school, excited about piano and full of curiosity and joy.  So what has happened?  I have found a new balance.  I have created work in the professional arena which challenges me musically, I am part of musical projects with different artists and musicians that feeds my creative soul.  I compose music and arrange songs in so many different styles for all the choirs.  And I get to spend time with the most creative group in society – the children!  They remind me not to take life so seriously.  They challenge me to be present and to acknowledge my abilities and my downfalls.  I teach them and they teach me.  What a wonderful exchange!

“In learning you teach and in teaching you learn”

My Journey with Music as Medicine by Claire Crehan – Part 3

Sharing this music with the world

I love this journey.  I love to share it with others.  I love witnessing the transformations which occur within myself and with the people in my groups.  For a few years, I worked in the inner city with my colleague Siobhan Larkin.  We were asked to create a music education program that also focused on personal development.  The children we were working with had difficult lives.  Their families were often broken, with parents in prison or caught up with crime and addiction.  These instabilities manifested in differing behavioural problems in the children.  We created a program combining our training with the Naked Voice and our own musical training within university.  The results were amazing.  We also opened the sessions with the AUM and the singing bowl, and then the children were encouraged to sing their names.  As time went on, the children began to sing more freely.  We would do the Shintaido movement practices alongside the more traditional music instruction of pitch, rhythm, phrasing, and song structure.  We would close our sessions singing the Heart Sutra, and then we would say ‘my name is ______ and I feel ______’.  The children were incredible – they began to speak honestly about their fears and anxieties, and we would watch as other children coached them through their problems, offering wisdom from their hearts.

One day we were singing the AUM and one of the children said ‘my whole body is vibrating’, which led on to all the children saying where they felt the resonance of the AUM within their body.  They had great comments like ‘my brain is on holidays’ or ‘I’ve never been quiet like that before’.  I learnt that children are so open and that they have a wisdom that is often forgotten in adults.  They are connected to their feelings in such a close way and I loved that we could share these simple practices to help them in their lives.  We heard that the children would sing the Heart Sutra on excursions, or during the after school club whilst doing their homework.  These mantras have a power that is ancient and potent, and the children connected with that without any fuss.  They sang the Heart Sutra because it gave them something wonderful.

I love this music and all of the magic that it brings in.  I love that all of my musical training compliments these sound practices, and that the depth of my musical knowledge, although not at all necessary, gives me a confidence and a passion for the work that I do, and that all of my musical experiences within performance and education are strands I weave into his blanket of musical life.  I love that when I am calm and centred and feeling freedom within my being that my voice soars high and low, and that I don’t seem to breathe for minutes at a time, how being present opens up the voice and there are no technical barriers.  I love how these sacred and ancient sounds can shift my perspective and allow more freedom to come into my whole being.  This living business can be challenging.  I remember so clearly the experience of searching for meaning within my life and how unsettled I was all the time because I felt like there was something more, something I wasn’t seeing or experiencing.  And this path I am on feels so different.  I feel clearer and lighter and happier.  The music has helped open my heart and for that I am forever grateful.

Working with sound has really been a wonderful journey.  It has opened up a world of meditation that is accessible in my life.  The knowing that the chants are working even if I can’t concentrate makes my life easier!  It’s accessible for everyone.  It works, because it works!

If you are interested in discovering more about music as medicine, you can join me on my Music Medicine course, or drop into my monthly chanting sessions.

My Journey with Music as Medicine by Claire Crehan – Part 2

Finding a New Meaning in Music

One of the greatest teachings from my journey with the Naked Voice and different healing modalities through sound has been my discovery of new meaning within the world of music.  Moving away from the role of performer and into the realm of being a music maker has marked a big shift in my own musical life.  I discovered the power of different sounds to help and to heal both myself and others, be it physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.  These resonances we create within our voices and instruments have a power to transform and to transmute, helping us let go of old hurt and old stories, and create something new and wonderful.  Through singing we get to access a new part of ourselves, or the original part of ourselves, a journey of reconnection and rediscovery of our hearts.

So Who is Singing

One of the big questions within the Naked Voice is ‘who is singing’.  It is this question that remains with me all the time.  I have performed music in many different styles and in many different contexts.  From my classical recitals during my Masters in Classical Piano Performance at DIT, to jazz singing at the Cork Jazz Festival, these moments of performance are of course exciting – the preparation and hard work on technique and phrasing, on expression and versatility, on tone and balance – all of these things have their own magic, but they are nothing compared to letting go into music and seeing what comes through.  I love just being with that music, the music of the moment, the voice pouring out sounds and the observer just witnessing.  And this process has been both terrifying and liberating at once.  I can recall during one of the retreats with Chloe where we had to sing for 15 minutes – after the first couple of minutes the performance monkey within me was dying!  And I didn’t know what to sing next.  The mind was looking for clever patterns to vocalise but what came out was words – ‘I just want to be free, and not to have to sound like you want me to be’.  And what came next was a wild music – low and gravely, and working its way up the body without worry or care – the sound was what mattered.

The Magic of Mantra  –  A Personal Journey of Discovery

I always found it difficult to meditate.  My mind is ever active and I have found it hard to observe and just let it be.  When I discovered the power of mantra to settle my system it was a revelation.  After a few years of training with Chloe, I was asked to come and facilitate weekly sessions near Baltinglass in Wicklow by a  dear friend of mine.  I held sessions for 3 hours each week for about 2 years.  My friend sat across from me the whole time and was very silently holding the space for me to experiment and find my own way within the music medicine, moving out of the mind and listening to my heart.  I heard myself saying one day that even if the mind is active while we are singing, the sounds we are singing are still doing their work!  The body, mind and spirit is benefiting from the resonance of the sounds.  This was a revelation for myself!  Until that point, I had been disappointed when I couldn’t switch off, and this letting go of whether or not the mind was active or quiet allowed me to do these practices and to allow the benefits to manifest.

The mantras brought me into my heart and one by one they taught me different things.  For me each mantra is like a key to the heart – some are keys of compassion, some of joy.  Some connect me with my more feminine side, others with my masculine side.  Some contain a vibration that is so beautiful that I can barely sing them out loud!  They open up parts of my heart, like petals unfurling in the sunshine.  They help me become stronger, and they help me to know myself more deeply.

Gifts of Songs

Some of the most beautiful gifts I have received these past few years are the songs that have arrived in my heart.  They come in the most obscure of moments, as though trying to catch me unaware so that I won’t interfere with their arrival!  These songs are so simple and so beautiful.  Some have arrived in the midst of chanting sessions – perfect jewels for that moment.   Others have come whilst I am driving, so I need to pull over and record them before they pass me by and come through the heart of another.  I have learnt not to judge them, but just to accept them, nurture them and share them with the world.

What do the words mean anyway…

I’m often asked what the Sanskrit mantras mean and I find it difficult to translate them into English because it doesn’t translate the feeling.  The AUM, one of the oldest mantras in the world, feels different to me every time.  But I know that I feel better after I sing it.  I feel more present, my heart opens more and the silence that it connects me to is beyond anything words can explain.  I worked for a few years with a fellow Naked Voice facilitator, working primarily with children in inner city Dublin.  She would say ‘can you feel the difference in the room’ after we would sing the AUM and people would get it!  A shift would occur within the space and in that silence new things could be heard, new possibilities for transformation within the world.  That is the power of these sacred words for me – the space that opens that allows us to move beyond our mind and the stories that keep us trapped into a world where new things are possible.  As Krishna Das says, ‘they are all just different names for God’.

The 7 Sounds of Love – Working with the Indian Scale

When in UCC, I studied quite a lot about the tradition of Indian classical music.  Their version of the scales of the West is the raga, but a whole world of musical expression is contained within that word.  There are ragas for everything – for the morning, for the evening, for rain, for sunshine, for expressing happiness, sadness, joy, celebration.  Ragas have different flavours and colour, with some having a different sequence of notes ascending and descending.  Encountering this ancient culture of music brought me into engagement with a new perspective of music and pitch.  Indian classical musicians study for years and years to learn how to be present with the expression of these ragas, and their improvisations are borne out of this understanding.  Although I didn’t want to leave Ireland and go become an Indian classical musician, this new interaction with another musical culture inspired my own creative journey.  When I let go into sounding or free singing, I feel connected with the music in a way that is different to how I have been taught to engage with performance in my own education.

The sounds of the Indian scale – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa Dha Ni and the top Sa, correspond to our Western scale of Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti and top Do.  During my training within the Naked Voice, I met with Misashi Minagawa.  He has worked closely with Chloe for the past 20 years, helping to ground the different Indian mantras by creating contemplative movements out of his practice with the marshal art of Shintaido.  These movements open a whole new world of meaning to the mantras, and with the Indian scale, they become new ways to explore the different ways with which we love and engage in the world.  This journey with the scale, in collaboration with my own musical training has allowed me to experience song in a whole new way.  I listen now to songs and I navigate the musical notes through the body as they correspond with the different movements of the Shintaido practice.  The music becomes alive in a new way within the body and heart, deepening my connection with song.

Continue reading Part 3

My Journey with Music as Medicine by Claire Crehan – Part 1

The journey of music begins…

I have been playing music all my life.  One of my earliest memories is playing an old piano in the garage, trying to read the music from my older brother’s piano tutor.  I began lessons and ‘ate’ music! I loved nothing more than getting new piano books so I could play and discover something different to play.  The piano was in the same room as the tv, so I would play on the ad breaks, much to the annoyance of my sisters!  My passion for music brought me on to study for my Bachelor of Music at the University in Cork, where, alongside the more traditional elements of music in academia such as harmony and the history of music, I was introduced to jazz, popular music ensemble, and the musics of different culture through my ethnomusicology and ensemble classes.

Alongside this new experience of different styles of music, I also met with the world of criticism.  I played piano all the time before entering university.  I never thought about being good or bad – I just loved to play.  My first month in college, I put myself forward to play at a jazz and popular music recital.  I played the theme tune from the film, The Piano.  I loved to play that piece as it was emotive and it flowed from my fingers.  Within the concert, I was preceded by a prodigious jazz trio and followed by a  woman playing a wild Rachmaninov prelude.  After the concert, a fellow student asked if I was ok, given that I was placed in the midst of obvious virtuosity having played something quite simple myself.  I was horrified!  My voice was closed down.  A self-consciousness arose within me around the difficulty of the music I was performing.  The students were talking about left hand technique books and I was questioned on my classical repertoire.  I had never heard the word repertoire before!  I was in the midst of conservatoire students and my perception of my own ability was now filtered through the perceptions of other around quality and criticism.

My response to this criticism was to stop learning anything new on the piano, and to find other avenues for musical expression.  I began to sing jazz under the tutelage of pianist Paul O Donnell.  It was my first taste at improvisation and I was terrified!  I could always read music fluently and suddenly I was being asked to compose and create something new!  I found it difficult on the piano, but the voice had a freedom in it that could improvise.  The voice is the primary instrument through which any improvisation flows.  If playing an instrument, it flows through the voice into the fingers.  If improvising at the piano now, I am singing the improvisation, sometimes silently, sometimes audibly.   There was a new relationship to music unfolding within me.

Mel Mercier joined UCC in my second year and opened my world view of music drastically.  He took the classes in Ewe Dance Drumming, Gamelan and Indian music, both under ethnomusicological academic classes and ensemble courses.  Undertaking these courses I was introduced to a whole new world of music performance and musical ideology.  There was a gamelan room that housed the gamelan orchestra, the instrumental ensemble tradition from Indonesia.  There was gongs and metalophones and xylophones.  Shoes were left at the door so as not to bring in the dirt from the outsdie world.  It was a place of retreat, silence and sacredness.

I also had my first taste of the classical Indian music tradition, an introduction to the world of raga – the Indian scale, and a view of music from another culture that resonated with my own heart.  The improvisations we were listening to from the Indian classical music tradition resonated with my own heart and desire for expression.  At the time, my only outlet for this improvisation was through my study in jazz.

A world of study

From Cork I went on to study at Newpark Jazz College, but something was missing – in this whole new world of improvised music, I was looking for something different – I was looking to express my own voice, and without the structures that jazz study was imposing – free from chord progressions, and improvisatory patterns.  One night, I was at a party with a friend and we were just singing – improvising freely.  Her voice was soaring and I found myself encouraging this free expression, and her voice soared more – up and down, in and out, the music of the moment, her music.  After what seemed like hours, we stopped and lay on the floor, and a voice inside me said ‘this is it – this is what you’re looking for’.  The next Monday morning, I rang Newpark to say I wouldn’t be returning and, despite the stern words of my vocal coach urging me to reconsider, I followed my heart and a new path unfolded.

It was in Peru in 2008, in a small hut outside of Iquitos during a meditation that I heard another voice saying to find Chloe Goodchild.  And that I did – I began a new journey of voice within the training of the Naked Voice method and a whole new world of music has opened up as a result.

I loved studying with Chloe.  She too was a musician from a classical background and she also wanted to find a new way to work with voice, with music, and following her heart she went to India, awakening and re-emerging with a new perspective.  For the past 20 years or so, Chloe has been working to merge Indian singing practices within a Western framework, and as more and more people train with her as facilitators, we too are merging our training within our own cultural and musical fields.  I have found a freedom within my relationship to music that connects me to myself in such a deep way and, in turn, strengthens my connection with the world.

Continue reading Part 2..