I arrived a little late at five after three on Saturday afternoon. I went straight into the round room of the Church of Truth, with its high conical ceiling. Nancy motioned me to sit in the bass section. There Terence gave me a big hug which helped ground me, get me beyond the overwhelmed feeling I often get when joining a large group. This group was about 50 people, age 40 and up, sitting around the outside of the room. I had five friends there and another five acquaintances. My support group.
I sat down next to Carl who introduced himself as the husband of Helen who would lead the singing. They had come from Orchas Island in Washington State where they live at the retreat centre, Indralaya. Carl knew all the songs and helped Terence and I get a head start on learning our parts. Helen, like everyone’s grandmother, straightforward and down to earth, explained that Deep Singing is singing meditation. The experience of harmony was more important than the words. To that end there were four chairs back-to-back in the centre of the room where we could sit anytime to let the harmonies wash over us. Helen called out the page numbers in our song books and helped us learn the short, simple melodies. Then we sang , chant or round over and over again until we were done.
My new granddaughter, Zsofi
I remembered writing an essay about my experience in the Gettin Higher Choir. It was called Getting Higher in the Choir. I had noticed that there were two ways I experienced joy and connection through the singing. One was when I got into a huddle with the bass section and felt the resonance of our voices. The other, more intense, was when, having thoroughly learned my part, I walked over and sang my bass part in the middle of the tenor section. This intensified my experience of harmony and gave me a rush of joy.
Kludak Trail: the view from the ridge
I turned my chair towards Carl and started to feel my connection with him. Some people were walking out to sit in the chairs in the centre. I followed suit. The chairs were at the focus of the room’s natural amplification where all the parts were the same volume. The experience seemed intensely soothing or healing.
When I felt confident that I knew my part I walked across the circle and sang it just in front of the sopranos. This felt risky. I was out on a limb. Could I maintain my part? But it was exciting too… At one point Helen walked around pointing at people and saying, “One, one. Two, two.” I was paired up with Carl. When we started singing the song I suggested to him, using hand signals, that we go walkabout. This we did and we were soon joined by lots of people weaving around one another. I realized that I could choose to turn towards Carl for support or turn away, towards other people, for adventure. Here I had both support and adventure, like travelling with a friend to exotic places.
Kludak Trail: hanging roots
I sat with friends and acquaintances during the potluck dinner and went out with some of them for a little fresh air. The session lasted till close to nine o’clock. Words of gratitude were spoken at the end and we went our separate ways. Carl and I shook hands warmly.
Kludak Trail: blueberry bush
Reflecting on my experience I recognized that staying in the bass section I had the joy of comfort, support and connection and that when I walked across the room alone I had fear/excitement intensifying the joy of connection. When I walked together with Carl I had the best of both worlds.
It seemed to me that, overall, the experience was the essence of ritual: repetitive actions performed to re-affirm our connectedness with the whole of life (here stripped of religious baggage). When I was younger I used to complain about all the ‘meaningless rituals’ that had been imposed on me. I went to assembly every morning for seven years in high school, where we sang a hymn together. It was just one part of a whole day (of seven years) of authoritarian imposition and was never a joyful or connecting experience for me. Yet that must have been its original intention before it was corrupted.
How delightful to experience such an effective ritual over fifty years later.
Edward. April 2018