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Just breathe?

At the start of every choir session, I ask members to join me in taking a breath (a few actually). I always see a mixture of happy compliance, eye rolling and even loud sighs (from more daring members)! I press on regardless.

But the question “Why?” always hangs in the air.

To be honest I’ve asked myself this question on numerous occasions and it wasn’t until my good friend Kate gave me her answer, that my own truth dawned on me. Until that point, I just sort of did it, because it worked (for me).

Her comment made me reflect on the many other ways to start a session. Some choir leaders jump straight into a vocal warm up, some have a special signal – clapping a rhythm or other behaviourist approach, some start with a simple song.

I have experienced and witnessed many of these approaches as choir leader and choir member. They all serve a similar purpose – that of drawing the group to attention.

But the breath.

Aaaah, I love taking a breath.

Breathing in luxuriously and deeply for the count of 4 then, breathing out slowly for the count of 6. Extending this by slowly adding sounds, for example breathing out on “sssss” (as in the S for smooth).

The change in atmosphere is tangible. The silence – sublime. The relaxation. The stillness. The focus. That’s why.

Technically speaking I have reasons too. It helps to sing without tension and breathing slowly, calms us – soothing our nervous system. We also need to breathe well to support our singing and this simple repetitive action reminds us of our body’s capacity.

The impact in a 50 piece choir can be transformational. It creates a swift movement from loud chatter and laughter to silence. It brings calm focus and attention, bodies relaxing, minds opening. The perfect start to a session.

By the way Kate’s answer was this (I am paraphrasing here). “Some people haven’t had a chance to stop all day and just breath. To let go of the day. Mark an end to the stress. To empty ourselves just for a moment”

Try it!

In a noisy family household or office (if you’re feeling super brave); ask everyone to stand with you and take a few breaths. Alternatively you can lie on the floor with your knees bent.* Obviously not in an office!!

Put one hand on your chest, and one at the top of your tummy. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed.

Take a deep slow breathe in through your nose and visualise it travelling down to your tummy. A good breath is one that raises your lower hand, more than the hand on your chest. (If you are finding it hard, breathe in as if you are sipping through a large straw. Suck the breath in and feel it fill the bottom & sides of your lungs).

Breathe out through your mouth.

Once you get the hang of a deep breathe, start the count.

Close your eyes.

Breathe in for 4 and out for 7. Spend a minute or so, just breathing. You can also try adding “Ssss” to your breath out.

Afterwards take some time to notice the change in the room, on others and your body before getting busy again. It’s staggering how a simple breath can lift the moment, maybe even alter your day.

*breathing well can make you feel temporarily dizzy. If this happens, just pause for a bit. It will pass. And when it settles try again.

event

3 Choirs, Evening of Soul & Gospel 2020

A MESSAGE FROM THE ORGANISERS:

We HOPE that we will be able to bring this live show to you one day! But for now, we have now had to cancel the event.

If you have bought tickets and would like a refund, please contact Amanda Mitchell.
We will keep you updated as much as we can.
We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe through this difficult time. Thank you for your kindness and care
. For now, read about how this event came about!

This event started as a dream in the corner of a sandwich shop when my friend Anthony Dickinson and I talked about a vision of getting more community choirs to sing together. It was a dream that I really wanted someone else to transform into reality.

But with slow quiet encouragement from Anthony and community members, I got the bit between my teeth and decided to make this thing happen! The dream: a glorious day of soul & gospel singing, bringing 3 choir communities together in 1 masterclass, followed by a grand concert showcasing our work.

In 2017 we organized our first event led by the very best; a lady just about to tip over into international fame through the Kingdom Choir. Ms Karen Gibson. She didn’t disappoint, leading us with fierce expectations, pulling out the very best in us, working on the spot during our performance and making us perform better and better as the evening progressed!

It was an historic evening – the magic in the air at this first event was palpable. It was the week of the Grenfell Tower fire and somehow it felt like we needed to draw communities together to grieve and to share. It was historic & wonderful.

Photo credits: James Fisher & Martin Templeman

In 2018, Mark De-Lisser, fresh from singing at the royal wedding, brought a completely different vibe – charming, gentle, knowledgeable, but still working to exacting standards and bringing out the very best in us. There were calls for ‘more Mark please’ from everyone and we were lucky enough to have a repeat experience with him in 2019 – helping us learn more and create a magical atmosphere. One audience member summed up the event perfectly:

“I’ve rarely seen such a committed performance in which everyone was so clearly enjoying the moment. 

It was really great to witness different voices from different backgrounds harmonising, and to see the performers so clearly connecting with the audience to create an uplifting artistic experience for all concerned. 

The magic of gospel singing was tangible, and it was fitting that the origins of the genre were acknowledged and honoured. 

I can honestly say that it was easily one of the best concerts I have ever seen. I think the broader impact of what you do is probably bigger than any one of you can know.”

In our hearts we knew Mark wouldn’t return, despite his clear love of this event. He was too much in demand and has since been on numerous Television programmes including “Got Covered – Children in Need” & “Songs of Praises Gospel Choir of the Year”.

When you start an event with 2 powerhouse directors at the pinnacle of their careers, it is hard to imagine who would replace them! Who could possibly follow in such huge footsteps? We have been searching high and low for the right person to continue our 3 Choirs journey. So, it is my great pleasure to announce that Audrey Mattis will join us on 20 June 2020.

Audrey studied at Birmingham Conservatoire graduating in 1997 before moving to Manchester with her family.

She joined the Popular Music Department at Royal Northern College of Music (a leading international conservatoire) in 2015 and has worked in leading roles with Manchester Camerata, The Barbican & British Gospel Arts, as well as leading mass choirs in the UK and across Europe. She also leads her own choir Audrey Mattis Chorale Gospel Choir and has toured with Labi Siffre, Errol Brown, Hacienda Classical, Leona Lewis, Take That, Lewis Capaldi.

Audrey brings yet another layer of expertise, knowledge to 3 Choirs along with her powerhouse vocals & strong character, she will be an absolute asset to our event and we really cannot wait to get to work with her.