Ouroboros: Seasons of Life

November 23, 2008

1994. I sang in the chorus in the premiere of Kay Gardner’s seminal work, Ouroboros: Seasons of Life. This is still one of the most memorable experiences of my performance life. The rehearsals were held at the IU music school, which I hadn’t set foot in since leaving 7 years before. The healing power of the music and my sister singers helped me release the bitterness of the past and embrace the present.

We worked with the intensely talented Cathy Roma of Cincinnatti’s Anna Crusis Women’s Choir. None of the singers were auditioned, and the music was quite challenging, so Cathy pulled off a minor miracle by pulling us all up to performance grade in under four days.

Since the performance was going to be recorded, and it was a classical oratorio, the audience (packed to the gills in the Indiana University Auditorium) was asked not to clap. By the second movement, they were desperate to give back some of the energy they were receiving. Some began to make the ASL sign for applause. By the third movement, each pause in music brought a sussurrus of thousands of hands waving in the air, a shimmering field in our vision.

Kay’s piece ended with every singer crooning a comforting song from her childhood. I choose Poor Robin Is Dead, an old Irish Pagan children’s song of death and resurrection that’s a family tradition handed down through my (namesake) grandfather. The overall effect of the hundred-odd whispered songs is unlike anything I’ve heard in music—unforgettable.

The entire production was created and executed by women, down to the stagehands. I’d never experienced such a positive, can-do, committed sisterhood and was my introduction to the power of women’s mysteries. I was intensely proud of our achievement and became attuned to the different energies of same-gender and mixed-gender settings (all of which are good!).


Vocal workshops

November 22, 2008

1990s-present. Wide variety of vocal workshops, including those offered through the Lotus World Music Festival (Moira SmileyTim EriksenAsia Pacific Performers Exchange, etc) and the National Women’s Music Festival (Kay Gardner, Margot Adler, Ysaye M. Barnwell). In 2005, I attended a lovely women’s retreat/singing workshop with Sue and Marytha of Libana, with a follow-up Balkan singing workshop they created specifically for Kaia.

I always take a handheld digital recorder with me to workshops to capture cool songs, teaching tips, or ideas that come to me mid-stream. Workshops are a fantastic way to learn a large number of songs in a low-pressure environment. For me, they inevitably lead to hours of Web surfing (especially YouTube and Wikipedia) to find out ever more about the topic.