Send you troubles down water - why make space for Vox Voices in your life?

Send Your Troubles Down Water

Being a newbie to any group activity can feel a little intimidating - new faces, new space, new challenges. But when I first visited Vox Voices back in January 2016, all awkwardness quickly evaporated in a swell of joyful collaboration. As everyone circled up and began clapping out the new body percussion, there was no time to feel self-conscious.

“Come and stand in that river, current gentle and slow – send your troubles down water, down on that water flow”.

Indeed, all thoughts of the outside world quickly floated away, replaced by rhythms, lyrics, harmonies, and the blending of our voices into one river of sound. Though I barely knew the names of anyone in that room, looking around I couldn’t help but feel a part of something shared and beautiful.

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 Vox Voices is a female vocal group that is engineered to be welcoming and accessible in this way. There are no auditions, everything is learnt by ear, and everyone is welcome, regardless of experience, or talent. Instead, you can expect a playful workshop full of warm up games, body percussion, movement, and – of course – singing.

For most people, there seems to be something inherently fulfilling about the simple act of raising one’s voice with others. As long-time member Kate puts it, “there’s this really satisfying moment when everything blends, and you get that tingly back-of-the-neck feeling”. For Helen, it’s about “hearing the amazing sound we make harmonizing - it’s just so uplifting and fulfilling.”

There is actually a lot of science out there proving that singing is good for you. Recent studies have shown that choral singing can help alleviate stress[1], anxiety[2] and depression[3]. Breathing deeply, releasing tensions, and feeling the good vibrations are just a start. Moving in rhythm with others leads to greater feelings of altruism and connection[4]. As we join in harmony, we feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and are filled with awe at our collective creation. Kate notes that there is a therapeutic aspect of coming to sing each week; “sometimes you can tell everyone’s had one of those days, but it all seems to dissolve away when we come into this room, into this happy place together”.

But just as singing can contribute to better mental health, it also has measurable physiological effects. Its been shown that singing with others can lower blood pressure, elevate immunity, and improve neurological healing[5]. It does make you think the NHS should be prescribing more community choirs!

One of the other factors that keeps people coming back each week is the feeling of community. Lucy appreciates getting together each week with “funny and supportive” women to share stories and have a good laugh. The fact that Vox Voices operates on an informal drop in basis makes it accessible for those who juggle work and childcare commitments. On the flip side of that coin, as a mother of two young children, Helen just loves “having that time set aside each week for just me; it’s a really worthwhile indulgence.”

Others enjoy learning new skills and growing in confidence as singers. Under Tara Franks’s leadership, the group will learn and collectively arrange songs from a range of different traditions, including world, jazz and folk. Because everyone tends to learn all of the parts, the choir can be an excellent way of developing your ear for harmony and creative skills. For Lucy, Vox Voices has become her “creative outlet”, while for Helen, it has “been a really transformative experience that I want to keep building on.”

Whatever their personal motivations for making it out to Green Lanes on a Tuesday evening, everyone seems to agree that they look forward to Vox Voices each week.

They’ll be starting a new term on Tuesday 8th January, 2019. You can find out how to join here.

 

By guest artist, Kate Smith

Singer and leader of The Embodied Voice

www.KateSmithMusic.com

 

[1] www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/09654280210434228

[2] journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0305735613477181

[3] www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/effectiveness-and-costeffectiveness-of-community-singing-on-mental-healthrelated-quality-of-life-of-older-people-randomised-controlled-trial/516558F0DDD7D4DD0197FDDEAD30ED85

[4] trainorlab.mcmaster.ca/publications/pdfs/NYAS%20Trainor%20Cirelli%20interpersonal%20synchrony%202015.pdf

[5] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996848/

Tots Gigs: Making Incredible Folk Music Accessible to Parents with Tots in Tow

Tots Gigs: Making Incredible Folk Music Accessible to Parents with Tots in Tow

This autumn, SoundsCreative Projects launches an exciting collaboration with The Nest Collective, to bring the brightest and best of folk, world and new music performers to the Tots Gigs stage.

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Once you have kids, your evening entertainment options tend to dwindle dramatically. Only the most intrepid parents will brave getting the kids out to a gig.  And if you make it that far, then you might have to struggle with protecting young ears from dangerous decibels. Or, just as frustrating, preserving the sacred concert vibe from a squirmy toddler. The alternatives for parents who still want to hear some quality music aren’t promising either. Singing Row Row Row Your Boat for the umpteenth time at your local nursery just doesn’t cut it.

 

That’s why Tara Franks, cellist and founder of community social enterprise SoundsCreative Projects, started Tots Gigs. Tara has been running award winning parent and baby classes - Tots Tunes - for over 5 years in venues around Hackney, to which a whole generation of Hackney parents have and continue to frequent with their first, second and sometimes even third children! Since becoming a new mum herself, Tara wanted to create a family-friendly space where parents could still catch the best of London’s folk, world, and contemporary music scene. Held once a month on Tuesday mornings in Stoke Newington, the gigs are acoustic, intimate, and informal. Babies and toddlers are free to giggle or wander about during the performance, meaning parents can finally sit back and enjoy the music, as well as the relaxed atmosphere.

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What sets these gigs apart, though, is how well the musicians perform for and engage not only the parents, but also the children, all the while delivering top performances. For Veronique Chacon, member of experimental vocal group THAT! Ensemble, the experience of performing at Tots Gigs is “really different from your normal audience. Performing in front of children, in order to reach them, accessing my inner child is key… becoming aware of my vulnerability, my curiosity – it’s so interesting to get back in touch with that.”

This openness to embrace such an inter-generational audience makes for performances that feel fresh, personal, and accessible. As one audience member put it, “I think my daughter LOVED IT! Such a pleasure to see such talented performers who interacted so well with the kids.

 Many audience members also find themselves returning for the sheer variety of acts programmed at Tots Gigs. As local mum Hannah expressed, “I came to many of the gigs when on maternity leave and loved the mix of performers. There’s nothing else like this for parents – it is such a great way to spend a morning”. Indeed, prior performers at Tots Gigs have ranged from renowned kora player Kadialy Kouyaté, to vocalist, award winning composer and author Kerry Andrew (You are Wolf), to Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale.

From this autumn, Tots Gigs is excited to open up their platform to a whole new network of top artists through their partnership with The Nest Collective. Proclaimed BBC Folk Club of 2010, The Nest Collective is known for showcasing emerging and established talent in the folk scene, and programming gigs in unusual spaces.

This new collaboration between SoundsCreative Projects and The Nest Collective will help ensure that the best folk music remains accessible to parents with children. Not to mention, it’s a way for artists to access new audiences, and frankly, you won’t get any newer than babies and toddlers! Start them young, as they say.

The collaboration will kick off with Nest Collective Founder Sam Lee making a guest appearance at the first autumn Tots Gig on October 2nd.  Sam is known throughout the UK and abroad for his mellifluous renditions and unique arrangements of British folk tunes.

Dates for this autumn’s season of Tots Gigs are 2nd October, 6th November, 4th December (First Tuesday of every month).

If you’re a parent and interested in catching some of Britain’s finest folk music this autumn, do consider coming down!