Once upon a time, we sang. We sang till our heart’s content. We sang with each other. We sang the stories of life and death, and war and peace. We sang stories of our daily existence and of our nightly dreams.
Once upon a time, we performed under moonlight and sang about the stars. We sat around the fireplace and strummed a guitar while singing songs about local life and legends. We sang songs to celebrate, and to tell the stories of our journey.
Once upon a time, we sang.
So what’s happened?
Apart from those who attend weekly church, singing praises to the heavens above, and those who go to the footy, singing praises in the form of the national anthem, we do not sing. Some of us may meet for a few carols at Christmas time or pluck up the courage to sing at a karaoke night after a few beers, but outside of these rare occasions, we tend to reserve our voices for moments when no one can hear us. That is, in the car, in the shower or in the bedroom.
That’s right, we are scared singers. Why?
Most of us don’t want other people to hear our voice and judge us for how unrehearsed we are. We don’t want to expose that fact that maybe we don’t sound like Celine Dion or Luciano Pavarotti. We don’t want people to think of us as strange or out of place. We especially don’t want to be ourselves and be criticised for it.
We ask ourselves questions like,
‘What if they don’t like it?’
‘What if they look at me?’
‘What if they think I am strange?’
‘What if they think I can’t sing?’
Well, what if?
I was on a train in London one day when a lady was jumpin’ and jivin’ all over the place singing her heart out. I can tell you that it was the most inspired train carriage I have ever seen. People (although maybe a little apprehensive at first) were absolutely moved by it! They were laughing and smiling, and somewhere, for each of us, a little hope was restored that people can be free to be themselves, and that it’s okay to do so. Those few minutes of song and dance changed lives.
More recently, I heard a young man singing ‘We are the World’, loudly, on a construction site. I turned to him and smiled, and as our eyes met, I was reminded of my connection to all of mankind. I felt a moment of peace had that wonderful feeling of being home. It was great! This man, stepping out of what is ‘appropriate’ on a work site had given me a beautiful gift. He reflected back to me a part of myself that I forget exists, and possibly did more for me on that day than he realises.
Singing is a very powerful tool. It is a tool that connects us and reminds us of unity and harmony. It gives us the opportunity to come together and express ourselves. It can be an utterly joyful experience for both the listener and the performer. It is a two way street.
Even when I sing to myself, I can actually be singing with the universe. I am expressing a thought, a mood, a moment of gratitude, or just something I like to sing. I am enjoying myself. Even if my choices of notes are melancholy or depressing, I am, at least, communicating them.
We are much too afraid to step out and be ourselves. How many of you love to sing but dare not do it in front of other people? I guarantee you are not alone. Singing is a lost art and one we need to rekindle. It is a part of us. And yet, we hold it down, afraid of rejection and dismissal.
Fortunately, singing can help us to break free of our own barriers. Next time you are alone in the kitchen and singing to yourself and someone walks in, keep singing. Or try singing in the supermarket and watch it spread like wildflower. People love to sing – so start singing and remind them!
The art of singing is not about how technically able you are. It is about enjoying the gift of music and sharing it with others. It is about passion and inspiration and spirit. It is about being free to be yourself and in that, helping other people be themselves.
So, if you love to sing but are not doing it, or, if you have a passion you are not stepping towards, whether it be music or making mud cakes…
What are you waiting for?
Laura Mitchell is a musician / singing teacher currently living on the Sunshine Coast.
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