Song Dynasty with Janet SwainEvery day I remind myself to live in the magic of life. It is a beautiful sentence that pretty much covers everything. it doesn’t deny our struggles, grief, and challenges, our dark days or joyful light filled days. it offers an attitude, and approach the every day life, and when I remember to actually live in the MAGIC of life, I feel grateful for every moment I get to spend in this body on this incredible planet.

And as a singer, songwriter, teacher and workshop leader, I know that one of the ways to Live in the Magic of Life is to sing. Simple.

Sing in the Magic of Life – singing and song and sound are all ways to experience magic. the magic of frequency, of vibration, of connection with oneself and others – the pure joy of a single resonant note, the So if you want to experience magic on a daily basis, no matter what your education, experience.

It is astonishing but sadly common that so many people as kids were told to be quiet. Told they couldn’t sing. Told in fact that they shouldn’t sing. It is crippling and a reflection of our obsessively goal oriented society that is so deeply ingrained. Any singing teacher is asked regularly whether they think all people can sing – and of course the answer is yes…. most physical

my own journey began when I was a baby – both my parents were singers, my grandparents as well – they all either sang in or conducted church choirs in country Victoria. Farmers and office workers alike – singing was such a normal every day thing to do. I grew up singing with my brother and my parents – by the age of 6 or 7 we were singing 4 part harmony – mainly American folk songs – as we travelled around Europe. It was a normal as breathing. Andrew and I have passed that on to our own kids who all sing.

In my mid twenties I did a year long breath work training course – which showed me the power of sound in the expression of deep hurts and pain. I was amazed to watch seemingly well adjusted ordinary people reveal, through breath work, their anguish, longing and grief held down for so long. It was a profound learning for me that no matter how well presented someone may seem, how controlled and ‘sane’ – underneath all of that – is a raging, furious, ‘crazy’ person! I never looked at people the same again! And I learned not to be afraid of these powerful emotions and expressions that we generally hold in check.

So I started a community choir for everyone, up in the Blue Mountains. It was part of a wave of community choirs in the 1980s and 90s – led by Tony Backhouse, Stephen Taberner, Kate Swaddling – choirs like Voices from the Vacant Lot, Solidarity Choir and Ecopella.

This was my first go at running a large, unwieldy bunch of people, and we became famous for theatrical and long concerts in unusual places, singing a mix of folk songs, pop songs and originals written by me and Andrew. We sang in protest marches, at community festivals, weddings, birthdays, we had babies, we went to Japan – I experimented with all kinds of techniques, vocal styles, rhythms, theatre games and songs.

Since then, I have always started choirs wherever I have lived – from Katoomba to Sydney to Singapore to Kuwait to Byron Bay where I now live. I have run workshops and residential camps, worked with kids and adults, run choirs for migrants and seniors, and all this time I was developing a style of my own.

And then I discovered circle singing – Bobby McFerrin and Rhiannon invented this name – although most of us have been singing in circles for years! But this is a different approach to singing – no lyric sheets, no formal harmonies – a lot of improvising and playing and just simply making things up.

And so all my choir experience is now being used to work with groups, large and small, who want to simply sing – pretty much constantly for one hour. We start by learning a simple song, and then pull it apart to find riffs, words, phrases upon which we can improvise. It is great fun, it is wonderful community building work, it is about listening, responding, playing, fitting in, stepping out – it is a profoundly creative experience, and afterwards we all feel uplifted, inspired, connected and happy.

I often connect our work by acknowledging that we are on ground where community, belonging and life has been honoured and celebrated for thousands of years. We are a part of that – we are carrying on a great and powerful tradition of coming together to sing, move and dance.