Rising to the Challenge

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Rising to the Challenge

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Three weeks ago, I went on retreat to Northern California to attend a workshop with a teacher named Rhiannon. The workshop was four days of improvised singing. As these things go, it ends up being about a lot more than just that, but singing was our vehicle. Twelve of us lived, ate, moved, and sang together. At times we made amazing music an at other times we fumbled. All of it was invigorating and growing and after, I returned to our Circle Singing gathering  inspired.

I was specifically stoked about of theme of rhythm that we sought to uncover in our March 11 gathering. At my own workshop, I had been held to a high standard, digging into complex rhythmical patterns, polyrhythms and groove. All of which I love and am also... afraid of. I went into our Circle SInging gathering with the intention of holding us to a similar standard, without alienating those who may feel self conscious due to lack of training. See, rhythm is at the essence of life and the patterns of our existence. We are most successful finding the groove when we listen carefully and let it find us. Polyrhythms are not as much "odd" rhythms as they are unfamiliar to most of us who grew up in the western world. Learning to trust that they are already inside who we are is essential in finding comfort exploring them in the realm of improvised singing.

For our first our, we really dug into exercises that tested our capacity to sing, count, move, listen and boy did this group rise to the challenge. It wasn't easy what I asked our collective to do, but I was shocked at how quickly some of these complex concepts took hold. The ultimate result being the circles with vigorous rhythms created by members of the group.

In some ways, this session more than any other was a learning experience for me in terms of keeping the bar high. It is so important to offer a gathering that feels inclusive, but at the same time we must challenge ourselves, as to make new and interesting music. This group proved to me that the challenge will be accepted if it is offered.

When we gather this week, we will be digging into what it means to change ensemble size as it relates to parts. We will have the opportunity to hear more individual voices. It will be a challenge, but I feel confident it will be accepted. I can't wait.

By the way, if you're interested in Rhiannon's work... we will be hosting her the first weekend of June in Chicago. Find out more HERE.

 

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The Patterns of Snow

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The Patterns of Snow

Let the record show, the second weekend of February, 2018 was full of snow. It started on Friday and just kept coming until Sunday afternoon. One would full expect this sort of weather to shut everything down and for many it did, but not for we singers. We showed up! Maybe because we were feeling a bit stir crazy, or maybe just because we live in Chicago and that's what we do, but regardless, I felt special gratitude to each who made the trek.

This gathering was all about playing with pattern. I posted on Facebook earlier in the day about how we would gather, not in spite of the snow, but because of the snow. As I thought through this idea of pattern a bit, and the role it would take in our efforts to improvise, it got me thinking about the snow. On a micro level, we can see the incredible and unique patterns of each flake. If we step back to the macro, we can look at the patterns in the way it falls. Don't be deceived, this is not random. There is a beautiful order to that which may seem most chaotic.

So, too was our music making. We worked to create patterns quickly out of what sometimes felt like chaos. What at times seemed like a void, managed to somehow turn into a bloom of sound. Using flashcards, we explored letters from the English alphabet to guide the sounds we would creates. This exercise was an experiment that turned into a whole lot of fun, reminding us that sometimes the most basic of structures can allow us the freedom to really play.

I expressed to the group and will say here also, that as a leader, I sometimes have fear around the simplicity of the work. Will people be entertained? Will this be too small or too boring? Inevitably, my fear dissipates when I hear the richness in that which is most simple. Upon the most basic of patterns, we are able to create beautiful and moving music. Using only a single letter of the alphabet as inspiration, we can create an orchestral moment with our voices.

Looking to and trusting the smallest pattern requires a trust in the true order and goodness of all thing. Or, the true order and goodness of ourselves. To be successful in our singing and improvisation, we must move toward trusting that the even the smallest of snowflakes has beauty and value amidst a seeming storm. 

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On Showing Up

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Take a look at the picture above and see what you notice. What are their smiles like? Body language? What kind of energy do you get from this photo?

What if I told you that most of the people in the room didn't know each other prior to this gathering? What if I told you that within two hours we created the beautiful glow you see?

This is what happens when we gather and sing. Friends and strangers, placing ourselves in the vulnerability and joy of using our whole bodies to create. In all of this, it is inevitable that we connect and last night's gathering was no exception. The connection and vibrations felt significant and transformative. Actually, if I sit still and notice, I think I can still feel it in my body.

See, these singers, they showed up. Truly, in every way. They actually might have had to fight to do so.  Traffic, childcare, illness, just being tired. We all have a million reasons not to show up, but somehow we gathered and because we did, the group managed to supernaturally take care of the rest. It seems that most of the time, the challenges of the world try and prevent us from showing up. But, we all know from experience that when we do... good stuff can happen! Especially when you show up to community and especially when you show up to song. I believe that positive growth and change is the nature of what it is that we're doing.

In light of that, I want to offer a big thanks and huge piece of encouragement to each of these singers you see. They created positive vibrations in my life and enlivened my spirit. They also got through the biggest hurdle of them all, by just showing up.

We'll do it again on Feb 11.

Peace,
Davin

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A New Community

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A New Community

It's 2018 and tomorrow is our first gathering of the year.  There really is something about the New Year that can cause us to assess and reflect upon priorities and goals. This year is no exception for me, especially as it relates to this gathering.

On September 27 of 2015 I gathered friends and strangers to kick-off what I hoped would be a new singing community. I had just returned from the Omega Institute in Rhineback, NY where I had learned about and participated in improvisational singing with 180 other singers under the leadership of Bobby McFerrin. That adventure was transformational for me, not only as a singer but as a human being. I left that time longing to create something similar at home. A place for anyone and everyone with a desire to sing to be able to gather in community and grow. The community would be welcoming and appropriate for both beginners and experienced singers alike, but would ultimately just use singing as a means for gathering and growth.

Since then, we have gathered for eight months out of each year with as many as 25 singers and as few as four. We are routinely diverse in age, gender and race and experience levels vary quite extremely. No matter how many of us or how few, I seem to always walk away with the feeling that the right people were there and the music made was perfectly imperfect. Although I feel pleased with what has emerged, if I'm truly honest, I still long for more and my vision still has room to grow.

In an effort to move further in my intended direction, I'm excited to offer some new opportunities for this community to engage. These are small, but slow and steady wins the race, eh?

First, we will be gathering twice a month. Same time, same place, but more routinely in an effort to create greater continuity. So much of what we do only improves upon repetition, so my hope more routine gathering will help us to create greater bonds and improve our skills.

Second, we will be committing the first hour of every gathering to skill building. Choosing a theme that feels relevant to the improvised singing experience and digging into it more deeply. These will not necessarily be sequential, but all will be relevant. That is to say, if you miss a gathering you won't necessarily find yourself behind, but the more routinely you are able to attend the more rich your tool box for creating. In the future, my hope would be to bring in outside experts to help us expand our palette and create with more diversity as a community.

Finally, my hope is to help engage new leaders from within so as to help take our experience beyond the four walls of my studio. Circle Singing is a method of improvised singing that can truly be used in any group of people. I know this first hand through our gatherings, my company VOXUS, and as a participant. It can quickly and profoundly take individuals and groups into a transcendent experience of themselves and their voice. Further, it taps into what connects us to greater humanity. That's why it is my goal to "spread the gospel," so to speak. I believe it matters. 

So, will you join me? I need your help in fulfilling this vision. Really, all you have to do is show up with an open heart and sing. I'll take care of the rest... at first. :)

Peace,
Davin

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The Many Face of a Circle

Friends - our March Circle Singing gathering wins an award for energy. Never have we had such an incredibly synergistic experience in studio 632. It's funny, because each month, Alison and I worry that this could be the month that no one shows up. Which, would be ok because she and I would still sing, but that being said... it's a lot better when there are more people. Turns out there were 16 of us and we uniquely brought our voices together to create some incredible energized music making.

We are always humbled by the vulnerability and joy of the people who join us. Also, we are always shocked by the diversity of our group. Young and old, black and white and somehow we find synchronicity. Could it be the power of the human voice? We believe so.

Let's do it again next month, shall we? April 30th at 5pm. 410 South Michigan Ave, Studio 632.

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