Over the years I’ve learned not to trust people who say “close your eyes and open your mouth”, but today at the joyful voice workshop I’m assured I’m in a safe environment.
This one-day course aims to help you heal yourself (your soul, rather than your gout) by the power of your own voice. Sometimes I’ll dream I’m singing, and it’s the most beautiful sound I ever heard. Something pure and unspoilt from years ago… You know… before the music DIED.
Anyway, in waking hours I’m in possession of a plaintive squawk with a blatant disregard for consonants, and my friend Esther is terrified of singing in public despite ordinarily being a gobshite, but with some gentle coaching (“gentle” is the operative word today), healer Chris gets all 15 of us here sounding like human panpipes.
After about an hour of cooing “ooooooooooooh” my head’s vibrating like I’m on a cheap pill, and this pulsing sensation starts travelling down my spine until all my cells expand and I feel like I’m going to fall over.
As soon as we’re all duly hypnotised, Chris whips out a synth and starts playing songs about angels and butterflies in minor keys. Eventually I feel a tear plop out down my cheek. This is supposed to happen.
“Was that just you feeling sorry for yourself, though?” Esther asks during snack break. I knew I shouldn’t have filled her in on the previous few days’ unbloggables. I persist that there’s something undeniably restorative about singing, especially when you’ve a tendency to hammer yourself into the ground. I mean, maybe some regular joyful song about angels’ wings could be the long sought-after antidote to drugs and booze.
“You might want to take up cutting,” Esther says. “Or bulimia.”
After the break we’re told to pair up with a complete stranger, take both their hands, stand about 2mm apart, and drone at each other until we’re both resonating like a bell and pulling off harmonics. This should be hideously excruciating, eyeball to eyeball as we are, but it’s just one of those rare situations where there’s no room for self-consciousness. And hey – everyone’s had the curry dip and poppadoms.
Next step is to become a human theremin, with one person leading – dipping and warbling over octaves and making bizarro shapes with their mouths. The other person, intuitively, is just a split second behind them. Third step, we mirror each other’s freaky arm waves while doing all the above. Fourth step, hugs.
After lunch and a giant coffee, I find my patience is tested. “I bet Chris comments on the coffee,” Esther says as we tromp back in with our haul – and certainly he does. He attests that the power of gentle breathin’ and lovin’ allows people to quit all sorts of substances cold turkey though, so we may as well have this last hurrah.
With another two hours of ultra-vague discussion about good vibes and negative energy, and lots of head-buzzy sing-songs around the synth, I find I’m fighting waves of violence, while Esther later admits she was muttering the serenity prayer to make it through.
“Why is it that people think spirituality always has to involve angels and butterflies?” she tuts as we sprint off to the car afterwards. “What’s wrong with being a human being?”
Keeper? Adapting to such in-your-face intimacy was quite an eye-opener, and I did like the singing as a way of, um – ugh – getting in touch with yourself. I was banned from singing sweet hymns in the car as a child (ask me for my rendition of Give Me Oil In My Lamp), but no one can stop me now.
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