No singing, woodwind or brass instruments…” For me, that statement was one of the saddest things I have read in awhile. The public playing of woodwind, brass and vocal performances are now banned for the foreseeable future. A wave of emotions followed this, from grief to anger and then disbelief yet in reality I knew it was coming. This affects many areas of my life from teaching music, performing and leading worship at church. Having to explain to my children that they won’t be leading worship at church and also to my daughter that she won’t be able to play the flute at school for awhile was not easy and their questions of “how long will this last?’ have been difficult to answer. COVID-19 has affected us all in so many ways, personal losses great and small, lifestyle changes, family tragedies and an uncertain employment horizon. 

However, the wonders of technology have allowed us to find a way through. Though we may not want to continue to teach, produce music or worship online forever, the internet has provided a way to survive and move forward in this season. We have had to reinvent ourselves and reinvent how we do things. Nothing has stayed the same. By migrating to the internet, we have not only boosted morale for regular viewers but also attracted new audiences for our artistic endeavours. Previous situations in history have lead to an incubation period in the artistic community; as everything gets driven underground a reinvention occurs. As we emerge from lockdown, we can look forward to an explosion of creativity in all areas of life. And hopefully the public will greet the artistic community with enthusiasm. Maybe there will be more respect for the arts as people realise what they have lost. After all, Joni Mitchell sang “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone”.

And as for the singing, woodwind and brass playing… The time will come when we can all perform in public again. There will be an opportune, kairos moment when we are released to do what we do best and everything falls into place. 

 

One of the joys of pregnancy is saying goodbye to your stomach muscles, which isn’t great for most people but for singers it can mean the end of serious diaphragm control for some. Having had two children, I’ve found with each pregnancy that it has affected my voice differently; the first time I was just too knackered to sing and the hormone changes in my body seemed to make my voice sound different. If I did manage to sing it was usually interrupted by some retching! The second time around it wasn’t so bad and I had more energy and less vomit! Certainly on both occasions towards the end of the pregnancy the weight of the baby has meant that I found it impossible to sing very low or very high notes. However singing was definitely easier the second time around.

So here I am starting my journey back to vocal fitness again. Some days it is frustrating and other days it seems so easier. Half the battle is being able to fit in some practise between dealing with baby two and ferrying baby one back and forth to school. I’ve learnt that a little is better than no practise, and more than anything I need to be patient with myself. Some days my muscles want to co-operate and others days it’s like I have no muscles at all. Because I’m not singing all the time, my voice tires more quickly than it used to. Better every day it gets stronger!

The practise time has been made exciting though by the opportunity to dig out some of my favourite albums that I haven’t listened to in a long time. People don’t seem to listen to albums anymore, we’ve no time to spare to absorb a conceived music project; we want to skip through the songs that we know and love and technology has allowed us to do this. I also believe that technology has convinced us that we have no time for things that we don’t instantly like. I’ve always found that there are certain songs that need to grow on me and I need time to get know and appreciate them. However I’ve sung my way through umpteen different decades, styles and genres of music and found songs that I haven’t sung for years.

I’ve still got some time before I head to back to work next spring which is a relief! But every day is like getting to know my voice again and learning to appreciate the journey. It’s given me a fresh perspective on how some of my students feel and reminded me of the time when I was learning to sing in my teens. Sometimes it is good to let go and have a different life for a while…