EarthSings 2014
Singing for Unity and Wellbeing 2

A Findhorn Foundation special event 12–18 April 2014

The mornings
Here we go

After the weekend’s rapturous start, we’re into the week and these next five days will find us in workshops of our choosing to fill our days with glorious singing. There are morning and afternoon workshops with the different presenters, but for the first session each morning we all come together as a group to warm up to get into workshop mode, and to create some group synergy by singing together.

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Our presenters

On Monday morning Vera Bohlen and David Harrison lead us in the gently beautiful Harmonic Temple singing. Tuesday morning Susie Ro Prater leads us in finding the natural harmony within our bodies, what she describes as the river of song that flows through us all. Wednesday morning Bill Henderson has us singing in the vernacular as we belt out The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie in four-part harmonies. Thursday morning Barbara Swetina, with Sheila Pettitt accompanying on harp, has us using our voices to explore the sacred space the harmonies create.

The evenings
Time to be and time to do

The evening sessions are dedicated to concerts where we participants in this wonderfully energetic week get to relax after a day of workshopping and soak up the sometimes-mellow, sometimes-get-up-and-dance performances of our presenters. Sunday evening was a sultry jazz night with local band Swing The Cat; Monday evening Kathy Bullock had us once again dancing in the aisles with her wonderfully raucous Gospel songs; Tuesday evening Fiona Mackenzie with her band Cruinn EarthSings2014-3treat us to Gaelic ballads and folk songs; Wednesday evening we experience the sacred space created by the Threshold Choir before we’re more participatory again later on with mantra chanting; Thursday evening Susie Ro Prater brings us her soul-filled music, starting with a song that she coached six local teenage girls to co-write only a few days before.

Tomorrow we have the last round of workshops before coming together a last time for a group completion session. And then tomorrow night we get the opportunity to perform what we have been learning this week!

Friday afternoon
Until We Meet Again

The journey of singing together as participants in the EarthSings conference is drawing to an end. This afternoon is completion and tonight a celebration. Completion is an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of the week, and with the group as witness, to make a commitment to bring singing into our everyday lives during this next year.

We begin with a simple song and spiral dance to greet each other once more while acknowledging that it’s “good where we’ve been and good where we’re going to.” My heart is touched by the beautiful energy generated as we look into the eyes of one another and see the divine. Sitting in a circle, we release with gratitude the Angel of HEALING, knowing that the quality of healing will be there still to care for, guide and protect us on our onward journey. We then each give a voice to our own personal commitment to singing, some voices in languages other than English.

After some announcements, one of which is that another EarthSings conference is planned next year, 28 March – 3 April 2015, we end with an invocation song and dance. Starting steady and soft at first, the drumbeat becomes stronger as our voices grow louder and our feet move faster, giving power to the words we sing.

May the circle be open, but unbroken
May the love of the Goddess be ever in your heart
Merry meet, and merry part and merry meet again.

Friday night
An Extraordinary Final Night

I make sure to arrive at the Hall early tonight as I anticipate that it’s going to be a packed house. And full it is, Peter Vallance asking for those of us who are already sitting to move closer to one another so that everyone can have a seat. Though by the latter part of the evening many of us are up on our feet, hands clapping, arms waving, even down on the floor dancing.

EarthSings2014-10Susie Ro Prater and her workshop group create a column of resonant sound as they enter the Hall, the song they sing a reminder that we are walking on sacred ground. Transforming into a human wall when they reach the front of the room, they continue with Wake Up, written by Susie’s dad Nick Prater. A celebration of the dawn, of a new day, this song is filled with praise and the recognition that “love never grows old.” Immense joy shines from the singers’ faces and I feel myself lifted higher and higher.

The next song, which Susie wrote while travelling in Mexico, is a promise to sing to the world, never giving up until the world is singing together. Imagine what might happen if each one of us was to throw our voice on the wind, those voices travelling around the world, touching all who heard them….

EarthSings2014-4Next up is Fiona Mackenzie with her Gaelic group and they treat us to three old, traditional Scottish Gaelic songs. The first two, one a rowing song and the other a waulking song, tell a similar sad story from the time of the Clearances, a period in Scottish history when so many of the Highlanders experienced great loss and extreme hardship. Sheila Pettitt sets the mood with her harp for the first song and Chloe Greenwood helps to keep the rhythm going with her bodhran during the second song. The third song, again with Sheila accompanying on the harp, is an old lullaby which takes us to a gentle, comforting place.

With Nana Mzhavanadze and her participants, we taste of life in Georgia. A rug, baby basket and chair evokes the feeling of home while images of artefacts, rural villages, the city of Tbilisi, ancient monasteries and a typical Georgian house are projected onto the screen. Seated in the chair Nana plays the chonguri, a Georgian stringed instrument, the first piece of music welcoming a new soul into the world. Once the new baby has arrived, the group sing a healing song, scattering rose petals and sweets around the basket as they sing.

EarthSings2014-11The next two songs honour Queen Tamar, whose reign spanned the apex of Georgia’s Golden Age. Beloved by her people, she died in 1231 AD, her dying wish to be buried in an unmarked grave in a place where nobody knew. Ian Turnbull recounts the story of her passing and of the two men who granted their queen’s wish, killing each other after they buried her body. Drinking horn filled with wine in hand, Ian makes a toast to “the power of love that moves through us all.” The Georgian group finish with the powerful Mravalzhamier we started with on Sunday afternoon.

The piano is brought out, and Kathy’s workshop group numbering around 100 people take their places. Kathy makes it clear that gospel is a participatory song and we are invited to sing along.

Martin Barker, familiar with the African rhythms, provides accompaniment on his djembe. Our flight on the wings of gospel takes us from South Africa to the United States, bringing the spirit with us when we come, walking in the light. With this song Walk in the Light, Kathy and her choir have the entire audience up, clapping our hands and swaying back and forth. What a tremendous energy of joy, praise and unity there is in the Hall at this moment! To borrow a line from the song, “ain’t it wonderful how the light shines.”

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I’d like to close with the first four lines of a contemporary gospel Kathy has introduced us to tonight, written by James Fortune. Similar to the meaning of the Georgian Mravalzhamier, the words speak of trust and hope in the future and I believe we so need that at this time.

I believe the storm will soon be over
I believe the rain will go away
I believe that I can make it through it
Ooo I believe it’s already done.

Story: Chris Brown - The week; Sandra Mitchell - Friday
Images: Adriana Sjan Bijman & Chris Brown

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