Connecting through Community Singing
I am a choir director, song leader, composer and community choir mentor living on the beautiful Kāpiti Coast of Aotearoa New Zealand. I have 15 years’ experience of leading choirs both regular and for special occasions. I'm a co-founder of the Song Leaders Network Aotearoa and stay in regular touch with song leaders throughout the country and worldwide. This helps to fuel my passion for collecting, researching, sharing and living the human insights that are so often ‘coded’ within
the songs that we sing.
Stepping Back and Going Deep
There are some events in our lives that are so big they call on us to revisit our core values and can initiate a chain reaction of responses in us that range from the mundane to the revolutionary. The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting everyone’s life the world over, and I’m no exception. I’m moved to alter my working life in two ways at the moment: to step back and to go deep. Stepping back involves the decision to work from home as much as possible for now, to find some space in my life and in my busy-ness, and to establish some grounding in the virtual workplace (the phrase seems like an oxymoron even as I type it). Going deep is about honouring the songs, the people behind the songs, and the meanings within the songs.
I speak English as my first language, I am on a lifelong learning journey to understand te reo Māori and I love speaking and singing the languages of other cultures. I think it is a privilege to be allowed to voice a language, and I try to learn as much about the culture and pronunciation of words as I can. I am always excited to learn more about the songs I teach, and to honour the culture, language and knowledge-bearers with as much authenticity as possible.
I was born and grew up in Essex, England. and my ancestry goes back to Scotland and Ireland. Because of this, I feel a connection to Celtic and Gaelic languages and culture, and enjoy learning about, and teaching, songs from my homeland. I migrated to Aotearoa (New Zealand) thirty years ago, living with my husband Bill and raising three children. As a New Zealand citizen I don't really think of myself as tauiwi (a foreigner) any more - I'm allowed to live here by virtue of the Treaty of Waitangi so I culturally identify as tangata tiriti. I'm learning about my obligations under the Treaty, as well as my privileges, and working to develop the principles of partnership, participation and protection in my everyday life.
I didn't start singing in a choir until I moved to this country, when I joined a womens' group in my local area. After a few years our musical director wasn't able to come any more, so I stepped in to lead, even though I had very little musical skill at the time. When I was in my mid-forties I went to university for the first time, and completed a Masters degree in composition. For the last fifteen years I’ve been leading choirs and workshops in the Wellington region, learning much of what I know from song leaders like Julian Raphael and Tony Backhouse.
I currently lead one in-person singing group: Kāpiti Community Choir in Paraparaumu. During the recent Covid-19 pandemic lock-down in Aotearoa, I was working online to provide Zoom choir rehearsals for my established choirs, and I started weekly singing workshops open to anyone, anywhere to join me for a sing. I continued this regular online work until mid-2021. Though I’m still learning this new way of teaching, I've discovered some innovative ways to ensure a satisfying singing experience together across the airwaves.
I aim to provide a safe, supportive environment for people to explore their singing potential in a group situation. Each choir is a bit different, according to location, genre, and commitment levels, but all of my work is based on the understanding that everyone can sing, and we get better at it with practice.