Updated: Apr 22
By Rachel Healey
In this article I look at aspects of how Giving Voice differs from singing in a choir, even a virtual choir. Giving Voice is a personal resource for exploring our relationship with song and with ourselves, developing inner harmony and connectedness, as well as offering an experience of taking part in something universal and eternal, whenever and wherever we do it.
Recently I took part in a virtual choir online – shout out to Becky Owen and her PopUp Choirs! Everyone except the leader had their sound turned off, due to problems with latency. But it was lovely seeing everyone and getting the feeling of singing together. Becky is so skilled, she made it seem easy. It was really fun and joyful, and we sang 2 songs in 3-part harmony. There was a sense of community, belonging, and feeling resourced.
There are a lot of wonderful initiatives happening to keep people connected and taking part in singing together, as well as people sharing songs and tutorials.
Before the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to social gatherings, we offered real-life Giving Voice groups. In the sessions we aimed to teach people how they can connect with songs on their own, away from the group, and grow through that very personal process. The ongoing groups were there for people to share and celebrate their discoveries, get support and input, as well as enjoy singing and being together.
Giving Voice has always been offered to people remotely, as some of our participants are people who are isolated at home due to long-term illness, people who can’t drive or travel long distances, or people who have caring responsibilities. We offered individual sessions, and also group sessions, where some people or everyone took part from wherever they were, in the context of their own lives, being in touch with the group facilitator by phone.
Initially we used cassette tapes for distance participants! Then CDs and emails, and more recently, personalised web links.
Jill’s forthcoming book: “Unlocking the Power of Song – A Companion for Challenging Times” is intended to help people learn how to use the Giving Voice Process on their own in the context of their lives. We recently started sharing extracts in our new Facebook group.
I have used Giving Voice in my own life for over 20 years, with ongoing support from Jill. Now it has become a daily practice, in a way that meditation and other practices are for some people. In fact the Giving Voice Process is perhaps closer to meditation than singing in a choir. There are many types of meditation, including singing meditation. Many aspects of GV could be termed meditational or mindful, since it involves focus for example, and being present. And as with some forms of meditation, it facilitates growth in awareness.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of mindfulness, describes it as an adventure, involving “Paying attention in a particular way — on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally”. He described his original approach of “ethically-practised mindfulness” as "a radical act of love”. We feel the same could be said of Giving Voice.
Yet it’s still different. One way is that the songs themselves can be like companions, and our relationship with them can have many facets. And the power of music is inherent in Giving Voice.
As Jill herself says,
"I used to get so much from singing with other people, I would never have believed what was possible on my own. It was only out of necessity that I discovered more than I could have possibly imagined: not only could I have the most all-consuming experiences when it was ‘just’ me and ‘just’ the song. Often the most profound experiences occurred when I wasn’t even singing aloud at all. This was an astonishing discovery for me. And over the years, many others have discovered this too – through this extraordinary phenomenon that I call the Giving Voice Process."
Initially I was surprised that using the Giving Voice Process on my own gave me an experience of singing together. I reached a deep knowing that I’m interconnected with other humans and beings on this planet and in the whole universe. That might mean something to you – whether it’s about physics or biology, atoms and particles, or something you think of as divinity or “energy”. I discovered that it’s possible to experience myself as part of all-that-there-is. It’s awesome and it offers me an experience of connection at any time, in any context – and the more I do it, the easier it is to find it.
The Giving Voice Process also offers an experience of harmony. It does this by teaching us to open to an experience of harmony within ourselves - at home with ourselves. Depending on how and where we are, that can feel easy or challenging. But again, the more we do it, the more accessible that experience becomes. Developing and singing from a place of greater harmony within ourselves facilitates an experience of greater harmony in our singing – whether we are physically alone, or in the same physical space as other singers.
All my life I’ve loved singing, and have tried lots of approaches, styles, groups and choirs. It was when I first did Giving Voice that I had an experience of coming home. It also felt like joining in with something eternal. I sometimes say in my group sessions, the songs are singing all the time, we just join in for a while. The Giving Voice Process teaches us to have a relationship with song that goes beyond our individual experience, that we can still have on our own. It’s really fulfilling and exciting, comforting, and filled with peace and joy. I recommend it!
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