On Saturday 18th September I facilitated a day of singing at St Joseph's Prayer Centre in Formby, Liverpool.
We came apart
We came back together again.
It's just about sunk in now... it happened!
I hosted my first singing retreat day...
It's been a long time coming; it's so wonderful to be able to facilitate weekly blocks of singing sessions, but sometimes there just isn't enough time to really sink into the songs - I was so thrilled to hear 16 voices in harmony together, and knowing that we had a decent chunk of time to really melt our bodies and voices into felt glorious.
One woman said she felt "Excited, a bit nervous, but mostly happy to be taking time for me" when she arrived in the morning.
The day started on the floor, waking up into our breath and our bodies; breathing energy and space into our muscles, our bones and our joints. We moved softly to music, feeling our internal rhythms and tuning in to our internal landscapes.
After a go round to introduce ourselves, set our intentions and learn who we were sharing the space for the day with...
We danced! I often find that as singers it's so easy to believe our physical voices exist from the chest upwards. In my experience and practise, when we use our whole body to breathe, to feel the rhythm, to ground in the low notes and soar in the high notes - our voices sound so different; so free! Connecting the body and the voice is vital for me and so a circle dance created the opportunity to loosen up, lighten up, laugh, say hello to each other and get ready for the day. (This is what we danced to: Odetta, Hit Or Miss)
And then.... we sang, and we sang! We kicked off with Lea Morris's heart opening song Just As You Are - no dry faces in the house, the tears flowed safely and freely! It's a song of pure acceptance from one human to another, and the melody and harmony is just sumptuous.
I really wanted this day to be a space for anyone who wanted, to share a song with the group - and a few people offered songs, I was so pleased! I'm really enjoying my new role of nurturing people to have a go at leading, and they all stepped up with effortless ease.
After a wholesome lunch we took a walk through the woodland and out to the beach, stopping along the way to sing some songs about trees and birds; as city dwellers, it's so connecting to be able to sing these songs out in the open.
I have to say, we were spectacularly lucky with the weather, it was a dry, sunny and palpably still day... I'm not sure that could ever be repeated! We sat in a circle and sang E Malama, a Hawaiian Earth Blessing song, followed by My Love For You by Ali Burns.
There's something releasing and opening about singing outdoors, the breath is deeper, the sound feels different, we're rooted in a way that makes us feel like we're part of nature rather than observing it.
A meditative walk back to the centre while singing Ocean Breath by Helen Greenspan gave us the opportunity to switch off from each other for a few minutes and gather ourselves together before a final check in and a goodbye song.
It was quite an awesome thing to guide and hold a group of people for the day, take them on a journey and trust that my intuition would help me flow through the day and make the right choices. I really enjoyed it and, after asking for some feedback, here's what I heard from the group:
"The best part for me is that there are so many songs with a variety of qualities, feelings and energy that it keeps the content fresh. To be able to just enjoy the feeling of singing without the pressure of learning music technically is a joy."
"I liked that we had indoor & outdoor time. Being in the woods, the beach and by the sea created a deeper connection with some of the songs. It felt like a really special bonding moment."
"There was a really calm and caring energy all day which was really nice."
"A transformative shared experience after a year on zoom"
"I felt happy, relaxed, more open and thankful."
Some people have already asked for more, and others who couldn't make it, looked at our pictures and videos and want to get in on the action! I'm hoping to make these retreat days a regular thing throughout the year. If you're interested in coming along to the next one, then why not get in touch to put your name on the list?