The following writing was written by C. Hoffman – one of the wonderful Wednesday Writers.
Upon entering the sacred and beautiful space that is Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Once a week the Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble gathers for two and a half hours in the space of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in downtown Colorado Springs. Every Tuesday evening each member of the ensemble slowly filters in, each at their own pace. Some look up at the church as they walk toward it. Some notice the solitary statue of Saint Francis of Assisi standing in the courtyard, and how the fountain surrounding it has been turned off for the winter season. Some park their car a few blocks away because they want to enjoy the walk to the rehearsal. Some arrive early to help carry the large wooden risers into the sanctuary for the rehearsal. Some arrive
early and just sit and listen to the silence of the church space. But we all assemble for one purpose: to listen to one another and to make a beautiful, unified sound as one voice.
The space of the church naturally lends itself to the beauty of the human voice. It lets the sound travel upwards toward the heavens, allowing it to fill the rafters, bounce off of the stone foundations. There are various halls and spaces within the church where the sound travels.
Our warm up time always has me imagining that our voices are a sort of collective oxygen flowing
through the lungs of the sanctuary. When we sing we breathe life into the space we are singing in, we help and allow it to breathe and be alive with us. In our silences, between measures and breaths, the space settles and waits. When we sing with full emotional capacity and supported sound I feel as if we could, and just might, burst through the stained glass windows, filling the courtyard and city streets.
Every Tuesday I am thankful to be a part of the moving, breathing and living entity that is CVAE. I am a part of the alto section, a new member to the section. I consider it a blessing and privilege to make music with the section and in the ensemble as a whole. It is the part of my week that I look forward to the most. It is the part that makes me feel human and connected to something bigger beyond myself.
On my refrigerator I keep a quote from a wise human. By wise, I mean studied, experienced and fearless in life’s action even though he was afraid. It reads, “Stop worrying about whether you’re effective or important, Worry about what is possible for you to do, Which is always much greater than you imagine!” This statement or call is both huge and humbling but exact in its ability to inspire.
The idea of focusing on what I can do each day to effect the world and those around me seems like an authentic approach to being my best self. But doesn’t my culture expect me to conjure up some impact that I am not gifted to give? Exactly…. When I take a moment to calmly think about what my gift is and then offer that – I offer 100% of myself and rest 100% in that offering. I don’t have to carry around the tired virtue of guilt – or settle into a self-defeating spirit. I can walk humbly knowing that I am impacting the world (song) with my unique call (voice).
Another important voice in my life asks, “Do we waste time when we try to be effective rather than faithful?” What if we carry with us the gift we have and offer it simply? What if we can be present in a lesson or meeting, with a friend, in a rehearsal or event. My effort is transformed into a faithful presence which makes a big impact. Consider not just stabbing the dark with a cause. Consider your faithful presence – it is enough.
When an artist speaks her voice into the world, she does it in an effort to stay alive. To be alive, ignite her true self and connect the inner flame to the outer world. This is what I call “voice” and “song.” The voice within the artist and the song it produces in the world.
When an artist expresses himself in an effort to change the status quo – impact – make ripples in the still water… he may do so with the idea that he is contributing to the larger picture. But what if what he says is “the” point? What if what she sings “changes” everything? And what if that impact causes violence? Let me tell you, the artist thought it through and spoke it anyway.
It is his voice.
Let art shape you – not frustrate you. Let art inspire you to step into the cause it is pointing to – don’t get mad at the artist. Let art be the catalyst and you…the hero.
At about 5:20pm my mom and I would head to the church. This is when I knew that I had access to “the Church” and began calling it my first home…my own sanctuary. Each year the schedule was about the same. The Christmas eve service started at 7:00 with the small Methodist choir faithfuls, mom playing the organ and me in the front row of the loft just in her peripheral view. I began sitting in that loft with my matching burgundy robe at the age of 7. This is when the osmosis portion of my voice journey began. I sang as a little girl, felt the depth of any Streisand or Carpenter lyric, but didn’t identify as a singer. No, I was a dancer, then a french horn player, then a cheerleader. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I received formal voice lessons which is a story for another day.
I value the internal work that happens when I watch, listen and emulate singers. As a young singer to be, I gained presence. I learned to match pitches. I learned complicated rhythms and timing all while having fun singing into an unplugged microphone (and some tap classes). There is a very important aspect of teaching young singers to listen to good, bad, professional and amateur singers. To give time to singing in the church choir, praise band and karaoke at middle school sleepovers. To make time to attend local high school musical productions, residential theater and Broadway traveling troupes who come to town.
Listening, emulating and enjoying the process of singing is a wonderful first step to Becoming….a voice in the song.