I'm at my first singing workshop at Findhorn, a spiritual eco-village in Scotland. First impressions: Aaaarrghh!
The first thing we have to do is a partner dance. Stand facing each other. Put your right hand in the middle of your partner's chest. Place the left tenderly upon their right forarm (which is protruding from your chest). Gaze lovingly into each others eyes. (Yelp!) Sing, “I am one with the mother.” Lordy. Hold one another's hands. Maintain loving gaze. Sing, “I am one with Love.” Aaaaaarrrrrghghghghghghg. Put your hands in the air and do a silly flappy twirly thing until you're facing the next person. Allelujah. Kierier yliason. Swap partners. Begin again.
I'm having to purse and bite my lips to fight my overwhelming urge to laugh and play around with the ridiculous movements and words. Each new person I meet, especially the young ones, I can feel the corners of my eyes creasing up into theirs, subtly asking, is this for real? You're not taking this seriously are you? Can we play with this together? Oh shit you are! Oh shit we can't! Quickly I try to dress myself in respectful piety. Most people seem to be taking this seriously and exposing to each stranger the tender parts of ourselves that we expose to god or its closest approximation within our minds. If I keep taking the piss I'm going to be without friends here. I'll become sad and lonely. And just write more and more in my sad and lonely blog.
But is everyone really that comfortable with it? For the warm up, we sang something simple and walked around in a big spiral so we were all facing someone as we moved. “Look into one another's eyes,” soothed the facilitator, “and see the divine.”
Ok. I'm here to take part. I look at the eyes of every single person I pass – maybe 150 – and about 1 in 9 of them look back into mine. Am I scary? Ugly? Are you looking into everyone's except mine? Or is this like that thing in battle where soldiers told to open fire shoot upwards because there's an inner horror at the idea of pointing a gun at someone and actually firing bullets? Do we all share, no matter how much of a hippy we are, an inner horror at the idea of looking someone in the eye and singing at them?
We sing Taize music and I Don't Like It. First up all the lyrics are religious and I Don't Like That. Where's the space for diversity with religious lyrics? You're just heading straight towards bashing up against someone's comfort zone / different belief system / different way of expressing their spirituality / lack of spirituality.
I like Bobby Mcferrin's approach to lyrics. “Climbing the stairs.. chuck de bum, chuck de bum... Bacon and eggs... Chuck de bum, chuck de bum”
No one can argue with that!
Or the Mayday lyrics: "Unite, unite and let us all unite for summer is a come un today.” Again, no complaints.
Or Karigamombe. “Donkey, cow, goat. Donkey, cow, goat.”
The song I sing with people in the fun fed that tends to get them most high, Aslaa – (one man even said, “There was my life before Aslaa, and my life after...") - is utterly beautiful complete gibberish, written by Juliette Russell.
so. Secular words or gibberish, Yes. Religious words, no.
Oh dear. I'm in a sacred music festival. I think I better stick to the dancing. That's word free at least.
Second thing. I don't like using songbooks with words and music in them. It excludes non music readers. They have to wait for the music readers beside them to sing it a few times before they can join in. You might speed up the process, perhaps, but you exclude and divide. And: Everybody sits in strange positions, heads bowed to view the pages or twisted to view their neighbours. It's a rubbish position to sing in. Bollocks to that too.
Finally, it's all so f****** somber! Why does it all have to be so f****** sombre? Yesterday in the opening circle they asked for someone to come forward and pick an Angel card that would be the overriding quality for the whole festival. The woman picked the card of Play. Play! I know play. This isn't playful! It's sombre as hell! Where's the joy in that? And why is religious stuff this way So Much?
I don't get it.
Climbing the stairs... bacon and eggs...