14th August

Ever since we came back down to alert level 1 here in Aotearoa, I've been thinking that we shouldn't sing together if there's any return to alert level 2 or above. For those who haven't  got the message yet: where viruses such as Covid-19 are present in the community, singing is a particularly risky activity. There's a recent article HERE about it. Yes, we went for over 100 days without any community transmission, but how would I feel right now if I were teaching choirs in Auckland? The counter-argument goes along these lines: balancing the risk of spreading virus with the benefits (social, physical, professional) of singing together. A good interview is HERE

4th August 2020

A Change Is Gonna Come #2

Chanced across Stan Walker talking on the radio the other day. He’s saying how the whole lockdown thing has been life-changing, which is the way I’m feeling too. Re-examining his priorities, doing the things that matter, the things that feed him. Here’s his first song choice: Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come. Of course there is the connection with the BLM movement, if we don’t listen, if we don’t respond then we’re part of the problem. But climate change too, and there has to be a change in our response to that. There’s the things that occur (covid, climate crisis, the abuse of peoples) and then the way we respond to them. The hand of cards we’re dealt and the way we play the game. Change is imposed from outside us, and we change in response to it. We don’t have any control over those things outside of us, but we choose how we respond.  

29th July 2020

A Change Is Gonna Come

I’ve been thinking about 2019, how it was a ‘big’ year for me, even though its repercussions were not being felt until 2020. In February there was Jordan Peterson’s visit, and in March Eric Dozier, just the weekend before Womad, before the Christchurch massacre. In May Stephen Jenkinson’s weekend of talks, and Mairi Campbell visiting. All of them were deserving of much ‘unpacking’, some got a bit but most are still to be fully appreciated. I continued on my busy way, life went on as normal, we had trips away (Gospel choir’s tour of the South Island, a wedding anniversary visit to Fiji) choirs sang, I danced around like a music-hall entertainer on stage, keeping the plates spinning. There were wobbles, but I carried on.

Lately I’ve been reminded of some of these events which made me think about them again. Today I came across a recording of Eric Dozier presenting at the New Frontiers conference run by the Edmund Hillary Fellowship during his visit here last year. It’s called ‘a short musical provocation’ and could be seen as strangely prophetic, prescient of current world events. Or maybe that just shows up my ingnorance, my ignoring of a message that's been loud & clear for all too long. Well, Eric demonstrates something about the ‘family tree’ of a song, where it comes from, who influences it and what it means, then and now. Its certainly worth watching in its entirety (just over 3 minutes). I began to read about Sam Cooke and the influence his work had and continues to have for social change, also the sad ending to his life. Eric’s video is here

28th July 2020

Re-reading/watching some things that have given me an inkling of how to navigate life right now. Russell Brand just over a month ago, in Back to Life! Back to Reality? Are you ready to leave LOCDOWN?! “[life before lockdown] it was elevating us up to an unliveable pitch”. He talks about neurotic fear and wisdom fear, and how they’re different one from another. The importance of connection to the sacred, and an awareness that “something is talking to you” at a deeper level as you walk in the world with anxiety in your belly.  

…Things that make you go ‘hmmmm’. I've certainly discovered a limit to the stress I can take up again.

27th July 2020

If I don’t write any of this down, I’ll forget it all…  today I feel so totally privileged to be able to stand facing a choir and hear all their voices come together in a glorious sound that I facilitated. I have to pinch myself that I’m able to do this, and remember how special it is to have this opportunity while outside of our “bubble of 5 million” the rest of the world waits patiently for a vaccine before they can sing together again, or at the very best they nervously measure distance between chairs and restrict group numbers to minimise contagion.

This is so precious; I don’t want to take it lightly. I’ve become so aware in the last few months of the power of singing, and the power of these songs. Every one a taonga, fashioned by somebody, somewhere, sometime. I delight in discovering the whakapapa of these songs, of honouring the people who made it, sang it, carried it’s message in their hearts and kept it alive until I could experience it. And I have a newfound resolve to ensure that this ‘meta data’ is conveyed, hand-in-hand with the pitches and rhythms, as I share the song onwards to future hearts, minds, ears and voices. This is what “going deep” means for me.

I just read Ria Hall in The Big Idea (22nd July 2020) talking about the changes she’s made since lockdown:

“The pivoting of my business was a little bit out of fear, but now that I’m in it, it was totally the right call. I’ve got a lot to thank COVID for. I think people will take away so many different things over the course of the next three months, it’s about having an open heart and an open mind.”

Where’s my fear? Catching Covid? Spreading it? Creating the ideal conditions for it to take hold in these precious communities of singers? How can I show best practise to my peers, leading the way forward into a new, connected-yet-distanced world?

Life is very messy just now. Some days it’s hard to get the routine going, hard to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other. Other days, I can’t find the right words, and the music seems so far away, beyond the confused crowd, all (quite rightly) wanting to know what the hell is going on. So I will take a cold look at what I can deliver, scale it back, commit to one step at a time. Get back to the song, to the music, to the big picture. Don’t sweat the little stuff…