Voice Works 2014

The Giddens Sister’s graciously share with us African-American family singing traditions…


I just had a life changing experience.  3 FULL days of singing workshops, camping and all night jamming. Voice Works is produced by Centrum and takes place in Port Townsend, WA, and I highly recommend this experience for anyone who enjoy’s singing or would like to free up their voice a little more.

It is truly wonderful to sing with others and what a supportive environment for singers of all levels of experience.  Time and time again we were reminded of what a beautiful gift we give by singing.  I found the classes were very diverse and kind of fell into either repertoire classes where we learned specific songs and sometimes the history around it, or technique where we learned about the physical body workings of our voices and practiced exercises or learned a song that specifically demonstrated what we were learning.  I personally really enjoyed the gospel class lead by Rhiannon and Lalenga Giddens, which combined all of these things. We reviewed some history around the traditional gospel sound and family singing tradition, some technique and body opening exercises and then some songs.  We had conversation around finding our own true connection to a song, and what is it that attracts us to gospel music, or whatever kind of music it is we are drawn to.

This year’s Voice Works was on the theme of sibling harmony, so all of the classes where lead by siblings, and in the two cases by a father and son, and a mother and daughter.  And what skill and talent was amongst all of the faculty in their diverse knowledge and styles such as country, blues, blue-grass, gospel, jazz, and swing to broadly cover the spectrum.  I wish it was longer for it became hard to chose which classes to partake in, and I found myself going back for more with the same teachers and missed out on experiencing others.

“The joy of singing” with Pharis Romero was truly a joy and she brought a real wealth of knowledge and skill in sharing techniques and songs with us.  Not only can this woman sing, and was named Traditional Singer of the year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards, but she is also sweet as honey with a beautiful, warm and supportive presence.  We were so blessed to learn with her and to as well hear a special concert by all of the siblings which included Pharis and her sister Marin singing some gorgeous original songs in perfect harmony.

Seriously, I could go on and on. As I enter the teenage years of being an elder; I have been craving some women mentors. Here, at Voice Works I met and was taught by some virtuosic women musicians such as Suzy Thompson, Sylvia Herold and Laurel Bliss.  Suzy brought a “woman in blues” workshops where we learned some Bessie Smith songs and were accompanied by her amazing blues guitar playing and powerful voice.  Sylvie played a mean Jazz guitar and her workshops were focused around “jazz” singing, singing with a band and what makes music “swing” and Laurel brought us a more blue-grass style with her incredible voice and slide guitar and focused in on “brother-sister” and three part harmonies.  Laurel, and all of these ladies were so inspiring.  They are wickedly beautiful, bad-ass and so full of such talent and skill. Thank you for demonstrating how to age with such power and grace. Damn!

Oh, I must mention the Canote Brothers.  In clown school we often talk about the “body of delight”, an infectious presence of joy in the body that can’t help bring up a sense of delight in those around this body. Now these twin brothers have SUCH delight in their bodies!  Not only are they talented and skillful in their own musical rights; but their joy in sharing with us is just so wonderful that I was continuously bubbling over with laughter and happiness whenever I was in their presence.  They gave us VERY fun repertoire workshops in ‘old-time” music and as well some swing and novelty songs which are going to be fun to learn with Myrtle Family Band.

I could go on and on and I will go back.  I will bring friends.  I will share what I have learned and I will go forward down this path singing my heart out.

Thank you Peter and everyone at Centrum for making this happen


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s