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.
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, anxiety and depression. 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. 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. 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