Monday, August 24, 2020

Is it time to re-invent your singing self?

The world is full of clichés at the moment: “We’re living in unprecedented times”, “Every cloud has a silver lining”, “Getting used to the new normal”.

With everything in such turmoil, now might be a good time to re-evaluate your relationship with singing.

will it be fine in the end?

Many singers and choir leaders are finding the current situation grim. We are grieving the loss of singing together and are desperate to get back to singing in groups.

There are plenty of platitudes floating around: “Any obstacle is a chance for growth”, “Every cloud has a silver lining”, “Look out for unexpected windows of opportunity”, “Think positive, it will be over by Christmas”.

But these don’t help when we’re feeling lost and uncertain about the future of singing together. Many of us are grieving, and some are fearful due to potential loss of career and income.

life moves in mysterious ways

I’ve never had a clear vision of what to do with my life.

When I was 30 I was a research scientist, after being a university lecturer for a few years. I was also a keen long distance runner. Then I developed a chronic illness (M.E.) and had a year off work. All I was able to do was stare at the wall and rest: no TV, no books, no music – I just couldn’t cope.

When I was feeling a little better and due to go back to work, I realised that what I was doing didn’t suit me. On a whim I joined an evening drama class which eventually led to a 20-year career in theatre, dance and performance.

When the freelance theatre work eventually dried up, I got a ‘proper’ job as senior lecturer in theatre. This was a full-on job and very stressful so I ended up having a major M.E. relapse. Again I spent a long time resting at home and staring at the wall.

The one thing that I had the energy to do, and which sustained me, was to lead my adult education singing group on a Wednesday evening.

When I had recovered somewhat, I decided that the university job was too stressful and quit. Then I accidentally ended up with a career as a choir and singing workshop leader for the next 20 years.

I’m beginning to see a pattern here!

At my last singing workshop nearly six months ago, I caught a bug and developed a nasty cough. I eventually stopped coughing, but have been left feeling exhausted and lethargic. I’ve spent quite a while sitting around not doing much.

I’ve also been wondering whether I will ever get back to earning a living from leading singing workshops. If not, what will I do?

a time for re-invention?

Yes, singing together is great and it’s also good for us in many ways. Making music together is wonderful. But it’s not the only thing in life (see Be the best singer you can, but don’t forget there’s more to life).

When we’re busy doing the things we love (or think we love), we seldom stand back and wonder whether there are other things we’d like to do as well or instead of.

Now we are being forced to stand back. Some of us are simply desperate to get back to singing together and are completely focused on the future when that may happen. The assumption is that we will eventually get back to normal and singing life will carry on as before.

But what if it doesn’t? And should it go back to exactly what it was before?

Now is the perfect time to step back from your familiar singing life and ponder whether it’s right for you.

Are there ways that you might want to develop it? Perhaps a move sideways might be more interesting: singers can become choir leaders: choir leaders can become songwriters. Or maybe put singing on the back burner and move into something entirely different like bee keeping or gardening.

it’s not something that you can force. Allow your subconscious to do its work. Be honest with yourself and let your hopes and dreams bubble to the surface. Keep your eyes open for possible new ventures.

move on – don’t dwell on what has gone

Sometimes I feel the keen loss of not being able to run, or even cycle. I also miss making theatre performances. But those things have gone and I realise that they’ve been replaced by other wonderful things. If I had dwelt on what I have lost, I would never have found ways to move forward.

If we never get back to singing together in groups, then you will find something fulfilling to replace it. It won’t be the same, but it will be equally nourishing and satisfying.

Here’s to an exciting, unknown future!


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Chris Rowbury




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Chris Rowbury


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