Unexpected Gifts of Singing

So, it was hot in the Sonoran Desert today. As in 106 degrees hot.

Important to note not because I’m whining. Rather notable because, by the end of singing our last song in rehearsal tonight, I was covered in goosebumps.

Nah, you say. How is that possible?

Well, maybe it’s magic. I don’t know. I’m never sure how to explain it. It may be from the angel wings flapping around us! It is surely divine, however it happens. There is this unquantifiable and indescribable shimmer, a kind of vibrational healing that occurs when we sing from our hearts, with intentions of love and healing.

To begin the rehearsal, Melissa and I admitted we felt tired and had icky heat-related headaches. We let ourselves be on the floor horizontally, to rest a bit and have fun with stream of consciousness singing, for the cooling humor of it. Somehow, we stumbled into a pretty gnarly rendition of “King of the Road” when a stranger walked into the Chapel and could easily have thought we were nuts. She was looking for a hospice meeting, one that had occurred last week. So as fate would have it, she is a hospice volunteer who offers body work to patients in their homes. She had just come from working with a 27 year old woman dying from cancer.

This is not an everyday task, that just anybody does, you know?

Naturally, Melissa and I sat up and asked this kind stranger, who we later learned has the name Jane, if she would like to receive a song or two. We could see she might be willing. “Now?” she asked. “Yes, now,” we replied.

She paused for a split second and exclaimed, “I would absolutely love that!” And we quickly made her a place to become comfortably horizontal on the floor herself. She readily claimed it. We chatted for a few moments, she mentioned something about angels. We instantly knew the song to begin: So Many Angels. She softened into receiving. When we checked in with her a few songs later she was comfortable, kind of glowing in a giddiness about this shift in experience and ‘turning off her mind’ in order to only BE and receive. Something so simple! And yet, so rare. Such an unexpected gift. For all three of us.

Forty-five minutes later, with quite a few songs covered, we three were strangers no more. We felt connected and known in a peaceful way that makes words feel flimsy.

Singing & Receiving in the Little Chapel tonight.
Singing & Receiving in the Little Chapel tonight.

A huge gift for Melissa and I came in hearing Jane’s unabashed joy and account of how she felt: “like angels were all around her” and a palpable sense of vibrational healing. She noticed very early on how different it was to hear voices coming from human hearts so near her (we were sitting on the floor on either side of her), unlike hearing music from an electronic source. She told us how “intimate, earthy and feminine” the experience felt – all at once –  likely because our voices are untrained and soft, coming from a place that is like a mother singing her child a soft lullaby.

I’m barely doing this exchange any justice, although I’m trying so readers can get a glimpse. Singing in Threshold Choir is a total joy unlike any other in my life. Pure and simple. When we have these encounters, these wordlessly intimate and graceful times with people living and dying, I feel like we all come to a deep and nourishing well. It has sparkling water and we don’t just stand there looking at it longingly. We take long, deliciously satisfying gulps of our sense of our humanity, of our connectedness and our innate loving natures.

Like Jane said when she slowly stood up after receiving our songs, “I feel REFRESHED! I feel renewed and full of love.”

Yep. Melissa and I did, too! Thank you, Jane, for missing your meeting last week and showing up this week instead. We couldn’t be happier you found us.

P.S. Here is a tack-on gift for our readers. Try letting yourself be soft and receive a threshold choir song in this video. (Go ahead, turn it up and lay yourself down on the floor, even!) Perhaps you’ll have a small taste of the feeling I try to convey in this post.

 

Update from East Side singers

Greetings to all the Ladies of Song!

It’s wonderful to be back in the fold, never having left in spirit, and time creating a fortuitous connection with Stephanie during which the idea of an eastside branch of the choir was planted, germinated and bore fruit on April 10th.  Erin and Stephanie joined my good friend and Threshold aspirant, Marci Fredericks at our home where Marci jumped in to song and harmony without hesitation and we sailed through an hour and a half of mostly our old favorites, invoking that familiar feeling of something greater than the sum of the parts.

Stephanie kindly hosted the second rehearsal as I was out of town and we just had our third gathering last Tuesday back here where Erin introduced two songs new to me, Calling all Angels and Kinder, which we sang together several times to get the feel for the rhythm, sound and sense of form and content.  Marci was familiar with a slightly different version of Calling All Angels and the additional verses which she will bring to our next gathering.  As well she offered to bring the version she knows of the Chant to Tara.

Stephanie sang one of the Threshold songs (about walking in Sunshine – I don’t have the title right now and she is off on a mountain birding trek) )at a recent ceremony where she sponataneously translated it into Spanish, and has offered to write up the translation for us.

We meet on second and fourth Tuesdays each month, at 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 (near Broadway and Camino Seco) and will love to see any of you whon live close and/or want some extra song time. Please contact us for the address.

Onward and Upward!

Caroline

“Where love abides…”

Three of us had the privilege of attending the recent Southwest Threshold Choir Gathering in New Mexico.  Imagine being in a song circle, surrounded by support, lifted by life-affirming music for two full days.  It was a chance to reconnect with members of other choirs in the region whom we had met before, as well as meet new friends.  Amidst our busy lives, it’s easy to become disconnected, from others, from ourselves.

“For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.  We can have a surfeit of treasures. . .here. . .I have had space. . . . Here there is time; time to be quiet; time to work without pressure; time to think. . . . Then communication becomes communion and one is nourished as one never is by words.”  (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

Sometimes we need a retreat, to remember and to renew that reservoir, so we can return and continue to give and receive with a full heart.

My Grateful Heart

 

In celebration of a week when we are thankful for the abundance of living, our Tucson Choir members will sing this song at Peppi’s House Hospice tonight.

Here are the lyrics (in English and Spanish) — until I can find or make video of voices singing the beautiful tune:

My Grateful Heart
Laura Fannon © November 2004.
Translation: Vicky Jimenez- Russo and Olivia Leon

My grateful heart, so filled with years of living.
Memories flow by me like petals on a stream.
My grateful heart forgives so many sorrows,
Brings peace that lasts forever,
Illuminates the dream.

Mi corazón tan lleno de recuerdos.
Si deslizan suaves, pétalos en el mar.
Mi corazón perdona los dolores,
Ofrece paz eterna,
Iluminación
.

You can find this song along with many others we sing, on the Threshold Choir CD ‘Tenderly Rain’ available here.

Remembrance wall art at Peppi’s House in Tucson, AZ

 

“I am learning from this experience.  So it’s not depressing.”  These were the sentiments expressed by a woman we visited who had taken a bad fall in her home.  As she put it, “Last week I was dying, this week, living.”  Although she had hearing difficulties, she was eager to engage in conversation and shared with us some precious wisdom about what she was going through and about her family life and history.  When she couldn’t hear us talk, she encouraged us to write her notes.  While she told us she wouldn’t be able to receive our singing, but was an avid reader, we handed her the lyrics to “Shine” by Joan Chu from the Aromas, CA choir so she could read them.  This seemed to epitomize her positive attitude and how she has lived her life, and she remarked that she approved of the message of the song.  As we left, she encouraged us not to give up, sharing more words of wisdom.  Driving home, the full setting sun broke free of the clouds, lit resplendently in hot pink and orange, shining with a most vibrant and joyous light.

Here is Joan Chu singing “Shine”:

Finding the Quiet Spaces

Last night at rehearsal we shared an enlightening experience. We usually sing at the Little Chapel of All Nations on the U of A campus. We sing inside the sweetly intimate and quiet space – when we have a key. We quickly learned the universe had other plans for us, being that we arrived sans key.

So, we improvised. First we sat in a nearby courtyard. With temps still hovering near 100 degrees it was warm, yet the cool night sky helped us be outside with ease. Okay, we thought, this is nice. But then the thumping bass lines and party soundtracks from nearby sorority or fraternity parties made themselves known. (School just resumed = HIGH energy hum!) It was a little tough to concentrate. With her trademark patience and intuition, Erin suggested we move into another space, due to the ahem, ‘high ambient noise’ factor. (Love her so much.)

The four of us took two benches and moved ourselves with these into a dark, brick and relatively quiet passageway with a cool cross-breeze. Great acoustics to boot, we realized. We found another little world within a world! We sat back-to-back, sinking into our breath and our bones. We sang with delicious satisfaction.

Pathway to Heaven
Yum.

As I reflect today, I am seeing the metaphors. I see how we were quietly guided by intuition and listened to it. We didn’t let the noise and commotion annoy or disrupt us. We found the quiet space. We claimed it. And the joy of singing together unfolded for us, externally and internally, all at once.

How do you find the quiet spaces in life?

Singing at Peppi’s House

We are truly blessed.

The staff at this inpatient hospice facility in Tucson welcome us twice a month, as we come with songs into the hallways and rooms. We sing to patients and their families. When staff say, “sure, we’d like a song or two” we sing to them, too!

The first time we visited, we offered songs with five voices. We sang to a small number of patients whose ages spanned from pre-teen to elders. Sometimes, like tonight, only two of us may make it to sing. It may be the perfect amount unbeknownst to any of us — only two voices. We were called to sing softly for one woman. The songs were “So Many Angels” and “You are Loved”. Her labored breathing appeared to soften as we tapered our sound into hums.

For anyone who faces loss right now, I feel moved to post this video of Threshold Sisters singing earlier this year at a National Gathering. The uplifting power of our songs need not only occur in the hallways at hospice. Hopefully this song reaches many hearts:

 

May peace be with you.