Tag Archives: singing

Laurel Murphy, Rhiannon, Ysaye Barnwell – Improvisation

Left to right: Laurel Murphy, Rhiannon and Ysaye Barnwell in a moment of spontaneous vocal invention. Filmed during a week-long singing retreat at Hollyhock, Cortes Island in 2001.

We couldn’t be more excited to have both Laurel and Rhiannon teaching at Hollyhock again in 2014!

The Spontaneous Voice, April 12 – 13, presenter by Laurel Murphy in Vancouver, BC.

Vocal Improvisation: The Mystery & Technique, Jul 13 – 18, presented by Rhiannon on Cortes Island, BC.

All Together Now: The Power of Singing in Groups

-An interview with Shivon Robinsong

By Satya Varon

If you knew you were born with an ability that could lift your mood, increase your sense of belonging, raise your spirits and oxygenate your body… Would you use it?

Then try singing.

“Singing is our birthright, says Shivon Robinsong, founder and co-director of the renowned Gettin’ Higher Choir in Victoria, BC; and co-leader (with Susan Osborn) of the Way of Song workshop at Hollyhock. Robinsong has spent the last twenty years building vocal communities and helping people to reclaim their voices. She believes that not only is singing for everyone, but that when we sing together, it actually has the power to fulfill some of our deepest needs: community, connection, belonging  and harmony.

“There is nothing quite as effective at building community as singing. Even humming together, people start smiling. There’s an atmosphere of openness and acceptance”, says Robinsong. Singing is naturally inclusive:  you don’t’ have to be particularly extroverted or verbal. “You can joyfully connect with others without having to speak at all. You are creating something collectively. You experience belonging and being yourself. “

And if you count yourself among the many people who believe they “can’t sing”, there’s good news… you don’t’ have to be a good singer. In fact, just get rid of the notion of good and bad altogether. Because according to Robinsong, not only is a good voice simply a voice you feel comfortable with but “something magical, happens when you sing with others. People who may be out of tune on their own, naturally get in tune when singing in groups”.

That magic is being corroborated by science. There is evidence showing that singing with others literally unifies people at the heart level. A remarkable new study by Swedish researchers at the University of Gothenburg found that singing in unison not only had a calming effect on the heart (it slows down), but that their heart rates actually synchronized as a group; beat as one.  The implications are interesting, leading some researchers to wonder if singing could be used as a tool to create cohesion in other social groups.

And the benefits don’t stop there. Social isolation is a well known risk factor in human health. Singing in groups offers powerful psychological anti-oxidants to social corrosion: Belonging. Bonding. Unity. Community. It also contains the mental health benefits of relaxed concentration. It’s difficult to think about the stress of the day while concentrating on a phrase or singing the right lyric.

Top it off with super-oxygenating your body through the deep breathing needed to sing and we’ve got the perfect storm for a happy healthy psyche!

Or do we? If singing is so clearly beneficial what’s stopping us from gleefully singing our hearts out?

“Your voice is a very personal part of yourself. So if it’s ridiculed or put down in any way. It’s very vulnerable. Your singing voice comes from the same place as your emotions”, Robinsong muses.

To address that vulnerability, she advises us to get out of our heads, into the body, and into a group. “The critic lives in the head. I do excercises to help people get into the body. When you come into the body, it calms down the inner critic. When you sing in larger groups, you get a break from self-consciousness, because individual voices are less important than how everyone sounds together. There’s a freedom in that.”

Robinsong wants to free us from stifling ideas about who can sing and about what singing is for.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions around the value of singing is that it is about performance.  I think that’s only a small aspect. If you were to ask anyone what the world needs more of, I doubt anyone would say more entertainment, more performance. But does it need more connection? More sense of community? More sense of belonging? Yes. And that’s what singing can do.”

On this note, Robinsong shares her own transformational experience at one of Hollyhock’s first singing retreats with Susan Osborn. “(To hear Susan) declare that singing was for everyone, not just for the gifted few, seemed to me a most generous, inclusive and liberating statement. Having spent too many years wishing I had a different voice, “a good voice”, I began to accept my singing voice as it was, and to sing more. I came out of hiding, and discovered the immense pleasure of singing in community, letting go of the need to judge others or myself. And along that journey, I found my deepest calling in life.”

Satya Varon is a freelance writer who plans to shamelessly burst out into song whenever possible.

Join Shivon Robinsong and Susan Osborn for their “Way of Song” workshop, Aug 4 – 9, 2013 at Hollyhock on Cortes Island.

 

 

Is singing for you?

by Shivon Robinsong via shivonrobinsong.com

Hollyhock’s first ever workshop was Susan’s Singing for Everyone. She was the first person I heard claim that singing is our birthright, a radical notion that changed my life. To hear the lead singer for the Paul Winter Consort, an extraordinary singer with an unforgettable voice, declare that singing was for everyone, not just for the gifted few, seemed to me a most generous, inclusive and liberating statement. Having spent too many years wishing I had a different voice, “a good voice”, I began to accept my singing voice as it was, and to sing more. I came out of hiding, and discovered the immense pleasure of singing in community, letting go of the need to judge myself or others. And along that journey, I found my deepest calling in life.

As well as performing and recording, Susan has been teaching groundbreaking workshops on the power of song all over the world for 35 years. I am thrilled to be teaching with her this summer, and we are both full of excitement about what will come of our collaboration.

While my teaching has focused very much on the power of voices together, Susan takes us on a much more personal journey. She talks about singing as “the direct language of the soul … a way to enter the body and breath, contact who you are beyond thought, and from that place create a gift of beauty and truth to share with others.” She calls singing “a way to still the mind by deepening, slowing, and extending the breath.” and also… “an essential part of the human emotional digestive system”. We can’t wait to see what happens when we all do that individual work with our voices, and then bring them together in harmony to create something that only can be achieved by a group.

The Way of Song is for anyone who would like to:

  • Reclaim the joy of singing
  • Strengthen and expand the clarity and range of their voice
  • Explore the practical uses of singing as a tool for communication, as a practice in intimate creativity and emotional integration, and as a pathway to deep silence.
  • Learn to appreciate the sound of their own voice, develop confidence singing with others and experience the thrill of voices raised in harmony.
  • pend five days in paradise with Susan, me, and whoever else is moved to come for this experience.
Source: shivonrobinsong.com/
Source: shivonrobinsong.com


Susan Osborn (left) is a singer, and teacher. Formerly with the Paul Winter Consort, her work has primarily been in Japan for the past 22 years. 

Shivon Robinsong (right) is Hollyhock co-founder, and founder of the Gettin’ Higher Choir in Victoria BC. 

Join Shivon and Susan for The Way of Song, Aug 4-9, 2013 at Hollyhock on Cortes Island.