Interview With Maggie Wheeler
Singing In The Stream
Interview with Maggie Wheeler, singer, songwriter, choir director and workshop facilitator, about using the power of one’s own voice to shift consciousness in the individual, as well as the world.
Q: Would you explain a little about what you do?
A: Four years ago I co-founded The Golden Bridge Community Choir in Los Angeles, along with Emile Hassan Dyer . We are both graduates of CCLT , Community Choir Leadership Training in Victoria, BC. Our choir is a member of The Ubuntu Choirs Network , a growing community of choirs who believes that the joy of singing is a universal birthright, and that together, regardless of musical background, we can help improve the world by joining voices in song.
Q: How do you do that?
A: I work in the oral tradition , teaching by call and response, thereby making the music accessible to beginners and experienced singers alike . Through the creation of song, harmony and rhythm participants become inspired , energized and connected to one another. The physical act of singing and being bathed in the vibrations of the music relieves tension and creates a sense of well being that lasts way beyond the moment. Making music in this way is the ultimate co- operative experience. Participants experience the success of working as a group and creating something magnificent, resulting in a true sense of inter-connectedness and joy.
Q: Can you explain what a typical choir session, or other singing workshop, might look like?
A: The group gathers in a seated circle . We begin with some simple exercises, some vocal , some physical, to help everyone connect to their bodies and the making of sound . From there we begin to build harmony with some simple and beautiful songs that allow for the group to surprise themselves a little bit ! From that point on my aim is to take participants on a musical journey beginning with some early forms of chant – some African, Aboriginal, and Afro Cuban. As the workshop progresses we take an experiential journey through the music of other cultures as well as our own. I feel there is a magic that happens when you enter into the sound vibrations of other cultures. It open our hearts and brings us closer to understanding the global connection. As our time together comes to an end there is a openness in the room, a tenderness towards one another and toward the world that has emerged. I then close the circle with some simple songs that honor the space we have come to find ourselves in, and with luck everyone floats out into the world carrying the blessing of what they have created in their hearts!
Q: What can participants expect from your workshops or by joining the choir?
A: Participants can expect to surprise themselves, to experience a deep sense of joy and satisfaction, to laugh and sometimes to cry, and to be touched by the beauty of music. If the group is comprised of people who don’t know each other, they can expect to enjoy a feeling of community and fellowship with their fellow participants. If the group is comprised of
people who already know one another, they can expect to feel a deeper connection to that group and a kind of shared joy in having made something beautiful music together.
Q: How can someone take what they learn from your workshop and weave it into a more conscious lifestyle for themselves?
A: In indigenous cultures since the dawn of time, music and song have been inextricably interwoven into daily life. In our society the relationship to music has been compartmentalized. The experience of group singing exists in churches, auditioned choirs and groups that require formal training & the reading of music. If you are not part of one of those groups then it is likely that you have been simply relegated to spectator status, leaving music to the “performers”.
It is my goal to reawaken not only the joy of singing in a group, but the healing power of using one’s own voice. It is my hope that having experienced the work that I do, a participant will feel a new sense of permission to create their own song, to accompany their daily journey with a new found access to the music within. That can be a melody hummed while doing the dishes ( a work song ) or a free associated lament to release feelings of sadness ( a mourning song ), or a melody with nonsense syllables created while taking a walk ( a song of joy ) . Music heals and it is everyone’s birthright to enjoy the benefits of singing. My hope is that participants take away from the workshop a powerful invitation to step into the stream of song .
Q: How can readers find out more about doing something on their own like this?
A: If you or someone in your community wants to lead a community choir the Community Choir Leadership Training in Victoria, BC, Canada, is a wonderful way to get started. To learn about the training or to see if there is an Ubuntu Choir in your area go to ubuntuchoirs.net.