Reading My Way Around the World

Monday 11 January 2021

The Wonders of Zoom and the frosty mornings.

I've just had the most wonderful Weekend at a Conference for community singing leaders - all done on Zoom - for 215 delegates!!  

I am in awe of the technology and the wonderful organising skills of the team behind the Natural Voice Network.*   And there's a second weekend to come - woohoo!  

On Sunday afternoon alone I attended an Alexander Technique session followed by vocal improvisation lead by a leader in Oregon and finishing the afternoon with a Feldenkrais relaxation session.   On Saturday we had a wonderful singing session lead by a Colombian singer, another gathering where we learned songs from Palestine, Africa and Finland and joined in the AGM as well.   They had even arranged a pub and a chill out space :   Brilliant.   It finished last night with a gathering for well being and I was quite shocked at the loss that is being felt by leaders in some of the big urban areas across England.   It made me appreciate how blessed I am here living in this musical community out of the city.   In fact I'e decided to take a 3 month (at least) break from leading the choir to take a further step back into finding my own creative voice.  However this weekend has really helped.  

Back in March when we first had the mad panic of the pandemic and the 'what on earth are we going to do now', I dived straight in to zoom with a very thinly veiled affection and joy for the wonders of technology which was allowing us to stay connected mixed with an even more thinly veiled anger at having to learn something else new.   The stress of running sessions every week and one to one classes and preparing for exams and and and .... while friends were talking about having lovely family quizzes and coffee mornings left me quietly seething .   But work's work and I felt a real sense of obligation to my group.  

Now that I'm back again to the wonders of technology - we're both tech nerds in this house  - my creativity is finally starting to come up to the surface again - painting, playing with paper, knitting and playing both the marimba and guitar which has been sadly neglected for months.  

We have an online gig coming up at the start of February so the voice and guitar both need dusting off and the fingers need to be hardened up again ... ouch. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Everything was frozen the other morning when we went for a walk around the seafront at Warrenpoint - 

the low tide and frozen sand making gorgeous patterns .

Lots of painted stones lined the wall  - a very cheerful sight.  I particularly love the top one.  

And the heron must've been finding lots of fish in the low tide.  

Take care and have a good quiet and safe week.

*I'm sure I've written about Natural Voice here before - that it's everyone's birthright to sing, and should not just be kept to the confines of the trained singing world - our definitions of good singers combined with the awful critics on tv talent competitions have stopped people singing to themselves, to their babies, while they're working, even in the shower, for fear of being heard.  The constant cry of I can't sing really shocks me as without doubt everyone can sing - you may not sing like Pavarotti or Barbara Streisand or whomever you rate as being brilliant, but you can sing like you.   With not a lot of practice everyone can sing in tune and the joy of singing in a group, while not available through lockdown, is one of the most uplifting experiences anyone can have.   By not singing, people are missing out on the health benefits of this simple self help practice.   

The natural voice approach encourages and helps everyone to find their voice and dovetails very well with folk music which comes from the storytelling oral tradition - the story being more important than the voice .   We use short songs from all around the world, many written by our own song leaders, all with, uplifting heartfelt lyrics, simple melodies and often glorious harmonies.   England is the centre of the Natural Voice Network but there are people leading singing groups this way all over the world.     


  1. I don't sing - I am very aware I can not hold a note with it often waving between slightly out of key to ear-bleedingly awful. As a child you don't realise how you sound but after repeated 'reminders' by senior family members, I stopped. I love music, but it is either 'inside' my head or from other sources - I envy those that can and do sing x

  2. Hi Fil - your zoom meeting sounds amazing ... I'm avoiding it - but I'm not creative or feel I've a need for zoom ... I'll catch up at some stage - but for now I'm happy. I cannot keep a rhythm ... I'm happy listening to music and humming along at times ... the Natural Voice Network sounds a great movement ... and thanks for promoting it for us ... all the best - Hilary

  3. I love singing, but only when no-one is around & like Kate, I've been told off too many times although another household member does sing, when I'm not allowed. But I do tinkle on my piano & table harp. I may blog, but after that I'm pretty useless with computer technology & envy those who can keep in touch via this media. I'm feeling quite lonely & moody recently with no end in sight to all this mayhem & not seeing family, doing quilty things & just saying out of the blue, let's do this today. Hard, but it's life and we never know what it will throw at us, though a few things of good have come my way and meeting someone's cousin may happen this week....
    Take care, stay safe & warm and big hugs from down under.

  4. The singing thing makes me really sad too- I am really careful about what I say to children. If they are not singing in tune, I encourage them and try to help them to keep trying saying, "Can you try to aim for the higher notes a bit more." -it's often other children that put them off. This year, every single one of my 90 year 5 children was willing to sing a solo during our Medieval singing unit which made me so happy and no one was made to feel uncomfortable-the only thing is when you can't actually hear them, you want them to sing louder when singing with others!
    Your conference sounds amazing!
    I hate online things though and I can't wait to get back to real life so I feel your seething!


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