Back in 1999, I was leaving my favourite coffee shop in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood of Toronto, and I noticed a poster for a women’s singing circle. Intrigued and excited, I joined the group, led by Moon Joyce, and began a new journey into the world of self-discovery through my voice. I experienced feelings of freedom, joy, and connection that only grew while singing with these women. This singing experience wasn’t about performance or perfection, and yet the beauty that came out of our sessions together was stunning to me. I carried these songs home with me each night. I felt like I belonged, just as I was, with this group.
I continued to study vocal improvisation with Moon and keenly observed her expertise in song leading. A truly gifted songstress and facilitator, Moon teaches from the belief that we all have the right to sing; that the songs we sing can empower us to let go of perceived boundaries and limitations; and that singing in community belongs to all people, not just a chosen few. Many thanks to you, Moon, for inspiring me to continue on in this important and life-changing work!
Fast forward to 2001. I happened upon a documentary that completely changed my life: SING! Healing, Community, Celebration, produced by Shivon Robinsong and Bill Weaver. It follows the amazingly moving and passionate work of community song leaders extraordinaire: Gina Sala, Laurel Murphy, Shivon Robinsong, Ann Mortifee, and Rhiannon. These women became my beloved mentors and I watched this film over and over, feeling like I had come home to myself and to my purpose on this earth. I wanted to help myself and others sing without judgement, to express the truth about ourselves in sound and song, and to find community within a wider, singing human family.
While sharing my passionate connection to this film with Shivon over the phone, she let me know that she was launching a course called “Community Choir Leadership Training” in Victoria, B.C. and encouraged me to attend. It took 10 years of the continuous bubbling of my passion for community singing, 2 babies, a major move from Ontario to Nova Scotia, ever-steady support and encouragement from my husband, John, and the launch of my very own community choir, the You Gotta Sing! Chorus, before I finally made the trek to Victoria to meet both Shivon Robinsong and Denis Donnelly! And what a tuneful, soulful, uplifting meeting that was!
Thank you, Shivon and Denis, for your gentle and persistent encouragement over the years, for song leading with heart, compassion, and great, great skill. You are both shining lights of inspiration for me, and for so many others!