Photo: Michael Gold
Song-Lines
... a few words about music.

Important note: this work makes no medical claims, and it is up to you, dear reader, to use any information you find here responsibly and intelligently, toward yourself and others.

All material ©Sing into Joy

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"Songs for the Season of Light" - Preview of a popup multi-holiday sing-along
December 9, 2020

Time for some musical holiday cheer!  I’m planning a FaceBook sing-along, with songs of the season honoring several traditions, in a few languages, plus some plain old holiday fun. 

 

In chronological order, this year the dates to observe fall on:

§  Hanukkah (Dec. 10-16)

§  “Star of Bethlehem” rare Saturn-Jupiter conjunction (visible Dec. 16-21)

§  Winter Solstice (Dec. 21)

§  Christmas (Dec. 25)

§  Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1)

Of course, there has been Shopping since before Thanksgiving…

 

This December is special, not only because it ends our globally arduous year of 2020 with the hope that 2021 will be easier, but because there’s a special conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that will blaze bright in the night sky, visible to the naked eye from December 16-21, and brightest on the 21st at sunset. Astronomers say not only has this phenomenon not been seen since the year 1226; it may also have been the fabled Star of Bethlehem followed by the shepherds and Magi (who, per some historians, were astrologers) to the stable in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.  Back in the 2nd century B.C. (close enough), the conjunction included Venus as well.

 

I haven’t chosen the day and time yet for the song event, partly because of the range of holi-dates that gives it some flexibility, and partly because I’d like it to not conflict with online celebrations already planned by other musician friends.  So I’ll be announcing it soon.

 

Get ready!  Warm up those pipes!  If you’d like to have the lyric sheet in advance, contact me here and I’ll email it to you.

 

In light,

 

Danielle

 

 


 
Frog in Your Throat? Dealing with Vocal Fatigue and Hoarseness
December 4, 2020

Is your speaking voice tired and husky from too many hours of speaking in online meetings, or teaching school from home?  I’ll bet most of us are having to talk a great deal more, and for more sustained periods, than we were used to.  And not using the voice well bodes trouble, eventually.

 

This morning, I got a message from a new colleague, cancelling a Zoom get-acquainted call she and I had been looking forward to.  She said her voice had been getting progressively hoarser for some time, and this week she was told by an otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat specialist) that a polyp had developed on one of her vocal folds.  He advised her to go on as much vocal rest as possible so it doesn't get worse and require surgery. 

 

If you follow pop music—or opera—you may remember reading that singer-songwriter Adele, and also the exquisite coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay, have each had to undergo more than one surgery to remove polyps from their vocal folds (more commonly referred to as the vocal cords).  Whitney Houston had polyp surgery.  So did Elton John, whose voice deepened afterward.  Julie Andrews lost her ability to sing after a surgery gone wrong.  It's a delicate procedure, requiring a long healing and voice-recovery period.  Nobody wants to have to undergo it.

 

My colleague said she’s going to get herself an external microphone, and just schedule less talking time.

 

But we can’t always do that.  Not when practitioners are pivoting a hands-on, one-to-one, in-person business to an online avatar of itself; or when businesspeople have to lead or report in meetings; or when teachers—or parents—have to spend many extra hours giving special coaching to students or their children on top of the audio classwork itself.  Cutting back means income loss, quality loss, or even possible job loss.

 

AND, just getting a mic or talking less doesn’t solve the core issue: that the voice isn’t being used in a healthy, efficient way. 

 

§  Maybe it’s the lack of breath support.  Few people who haven’t been trained to speak or sing are used to taking the kind of breath that supports the voice. 

 

§  Maybe it’s tight throat muscles—because of nervousness, or habit, or trying too hard.

 

§  Maybe it’s talking too low in pitch, or even letting the pitch sink down into that nether region we call “vocal fry.”  (You’ve heard even national news reporters/commentators lapse into this.)

 

§  Maybe it’s talking breathily, creating friction between the folds.  Extra air leaking through them acts like sandpaper.  Or getting our breath in audible gasps between sentences.  (So many newspeople do this, especially many women, sadly—from the BBC to NPR to your local stations. Once you hear it you can’t unhear it.  Trust me.  Phew.  I’d like to get them all into one Zoom room for one good session about that.)

 

§  Maybe it’s feeling (even unconsciously) that we have to speak louder, or more assertively, and thus chronically pushing the voice past its comfort zone.  Learning to use our built-in resonators can help tremendously with this.

 

§  Is all this anxiety driving us to drink?  Alcohol is tough on a tender vocal apparatus.

 

 

As one of my old voice teachers, the late Tom LoMonaco, used to say, “the voice should be a vibrating instrument, not a valve.”  If it’s not supported by good breathing habits, with throat tension released, and the folds working efficiently to take just the air they need, your instrument becomes like a valve, where the poor folds—which are making a wavelike motion literally hundreds of times a second when you sing or speak—are working ‘way overtime and producing a tense, unpleasant sound to boot. 

 

Instead, think reed or even double reed instrument, that vibrates freely in place and makes a beautiful sound.

 

Want to learn more about how to reduce your vocal fatigue?  Ask me.  I can work with you individually, and am also putting together a small-group workshop on this topic.

 

To your vocal health!  And your happy caroling. :)

 

Danielle

P.S. Advice on more efficient healthy use of the voice is NOT a substitute for a medical opinion.  If you are having problems like hoarseness or discomfort with your voice, see a doctor for an opinion; take care of yourself. 

 

Holiday reminder:  Voice lessons are a gift that keeps on giving!  Consider bestowing a set of 4 lessons on a loved one.  Gift certificates happily provided.

 

 

 


 
"Simple Gifts" and the gift of song
November 26, 2020

“Simple Gifts.”  The phrase brings several things to mind:  

·      the familiar Shaker hymn written in 1848 by a Mainer (!) named Joseph Brackett

·      what we all are bringing each other in this year of limitations and loss, balanced by a whiff of new inner freedom

·      what we at Sunrise County Arts Institute and Sing into Joy strive to bring to those in our ever-widening circle

·      and in this season of giving, what we would ask to receive from you if you're willing and able.   

 

In March 2020 our income, based almost entirely on in-person singing and theater activities, plunged abruptly by 95%.   Our new Sing into Joy initiative is still in the maiden-voyage stage, with much more development in the works.

We’re happy and grateful to have our work supported at any time of any year!  But now there is an extra element of urgency if you wish your gift to be tax-deductible.  SCAI’s long-time 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor, DERC&D, is ending its operations for good by the end of December.  We need to receive tax-deductible gifts, via mailed checks made out to DERC&D/SCAI, no later than December 15.   These should be sent to us at Sunrise County Arts Institute, PO Box 277, Milbridge, ME 04658, so we can get them all to DERC&D and properly thank you.

If you don't care about a tax deduction and would like to simply give online, we joyfully accept PayPal donations at sunrisecountyarts@gmail.com.  Any amount, any time, helps us stay afloat and fulfill our mission.

 

If money is an issue—we understand the problem!— there are other ways you can support our work:

 

’Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
We’ll be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we will not be ashamed.
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ‘round right.

These words celebrated the Shaker principles of simplicity and humility, while the tune provided a neat little rhythm that could support the dancing the Shakers included in their religious services.  The Shakers, perhaps best known in our time for their beautifully functional furniture and crafts, were a radical cult in many ways, from their practice of complete celibacy (they adopted children to raise, and eventually the sect ended when the last elders died) to their rejection of rituals in favor of approaching Spirit directly, their completely communal economy—and their unusual elevation of women for that time.

 

We at SCAI and Sing into Joy plan to carry on for a long time to come—with some simple help from our friends.

 

        

Love and safe festivities to all,

     Danielle

 

P.S.   I’ve made a little unaccompanied recording of the song, and though I can’t attach an .mp3 to the blog, if you’d like me to email it to you, send me a note here.


 
Tuning Up Your Chakras with Sound and Light
November 11, 2020

Here we are on 11/11 with the 11th blog for Sing into Joy!

One of the ways we can balance our energies is to use sound, along with color, to balance the energy centers known as the chakras.

Much has been studied and written about the chakras, a complex energy system first mentioned in the Vedas, India’s ancient spiritual-knowledge texts dating from 1500-1000 BC.  “Chakra” means “wheel” in Sanskrit and refers to energy points in the body. The chakras are described as spinning disks of energy that run along the spine. It’s believed they should be consistently “open” and aligned with each other, since they link to bundles of nerves and major organs, as well as zones of our energetic body that affect emotional and physical well-being. 

Various modern sources talk about anywhere from 7 to 12 to 114 different chakras!  But essentially, the 7 major chakras along the spine (with the last immediately above the head) are the ones usually referred to.  

I've made a fun little illustration, posted here. The chakras are traditionally numbered starting at the Root (1st) to the Crown (7th).

 

One interesting explanation I’ve come across for this, is that each of us begins energetically as white light (the sum of all the colors), but our physical bodies would be overloaded trying to process that degree of “amperage” or electrical flow—so just as a prism breaks white light into the colors of the rainbow, the chakras “step down” that torrent of energy and distribute it to the appropriate parts of the body in manageable bites.

I’ve worked for many years, on my own and with interested students, using the sounds and colors associated with each chakra to bring about more balance and harmony.  People have always felt better, clearer, afterward.  Just as there are various theories about the number of chakras, there are various balancing systems people have evolved over millennia.  The basis for the system I use, I learned in Glastonbury, England, from a pair of sound healers there.  Intention has a great deal to do with the outcome, as does intuition in the moment—so I don’t worry about having the One perfect system.

 

It would be a challenge to outline a “chakra tuning” system in a short blog, so please contact me if you’d like to know more.  Sign up for my email list there, and request an audio example if you'd like.  

To your harmony and balance –

Danielle

 

Message me if you'd like to share your thoughts or experiences with this subject. 

You can also ask to join the private Sing into Joy FB Group here to delve deeper. Or just visit and like our FaceBook page

©Danielle Woerner 2020

 

 


 
Singing: A Powerful Mood-Booster for Troubled Times
November 4, 2020

I was saving this subject for the holidays, but I think we need it now, during this week of election cliff-hanging and sobering public health news.

There are hundreds of studies that show the benefits of singing—on the body, the mind, the emotions.  It has a holistic, integrated effect on all these areas.  For today, let’s focus on how singing for even 10 minutes can boost your mood. 

 

First we look at the body:

·      When we sing, we tend to stand (or sit) taller.  The better alignment helps mood already, and begins the process of releasing stored muscle tension. In the process it decreases the level of cortisol, that well-known stress hormone, in the bloodstream.

·      On the increase side, singing, like other forms of aerobic exercise, releases endorphins.  Endorphins are those feel-good, stress reducing chemicals that carry electrical signals not only throughout the brain, but the entire nervous system.

·      Your deeper breathing when you sing causes more oxygen to circulate in your blood—promoting a good mood and also helping to reduce anxiety.  In a future blog I’ll talk about the vagus nerve, an important cranial nerve that really likes long slow out-breaths.  But meanwhile just try this:

 

Stand or sit comfortably, and slowly exhale all the breath in your lungs, till you feel empty. Then open your mouth and throat and just let the air in. It will fill you without your trying to “take a deep breath.” Do this a total of 3 times and notice how you feel afterward.  A little better? A little more peaceful?

 

·      The buzz!  Here’s a cool discovery: there’s a tiny organ in the ear, the sacculus, that responds to the sound frequencies created by singing.  The response, say scientists, creates an immediate sense of pleasure—whatever the quality of the singing itself.  

       And of course, the vibrations of singing travel through all the cells of the body, thus can literally raise our own frequency, and also what we're putting out into the world.

 

 

This leads us to some of the direct emotional avenues we can take with singing.

·      Singing for even a few minutes can take your mind off the troubles of the day and give your emotions a chance to reboot.  Whether you do warm-ups and exercises, sing songs, or both, it works.

 

·      Pick the right song to shift your mood. It could serve as catharsis (maybe the blues or a good crying-it-out song--or a yelling-it-out song as long as you're not hurting your voice), or as pick-me up happy music, or as a calm stream on a meditative lyric.  The words, the music, and the experience of singing something meaningful to you, or something silly to just give you a lift, all contribute to a change of mood.

 

·      Learning a new song, either one you just heard or one you’ve always wanted to sing, is easier with all the access we have online.  And it’ll stimulate your thinking and memory faculties while you’re at it.

 

This is a very short list of some ways singing—even on our own, before we find ways to rejoin others safely in song—can help bring us out of an anxious funk.  Our ability to be of service out in the world starts with taking care of ourselves.  Supporting how we feel with song may be exactly the place to start.

 

How about making yourself a promise that you’ll carve out 10 minutes a day to Just Sing?  BTW, I’m working on a way to make it easier to do that: more about that development soon.

 

Sing On!

 

Danielle

 

Message me if you'd like to share your thoughts or experiences with this subject. 

You can also ask to join the private Sing into Joy FB Group here to delve deeper. Or just visit and like our FaceBook page

©Danielle Woerner 2020

 

 


 
Voice-Vote for Being an Instrument of Peace – this week’s extra blog
October 30, 2020

How do we speak, and how do we listen -- now?

 

In the coming days in the U.S., we’ll continue to hear harsh words ringing all around us: the polarity of “us” vs. “them,” the rage and blame.  We may utter some of those words ourselves.  We may not notice a lot of listening going on.  We may be jumping in, or trying to tune out as much of it as possible.  And we can assume the vitriol won’t stop when the polls close on Election Night.

 

I heard an interesting discussion on radio this week, reporting on a study about beliefs. The gist was that once a person makes a moral decision for themselves that a thing is right or wrong, when they’re exposed to science or research on the subject--which might either contradict or support their belief--they generally don’t listen to evaluate the information. Instead, they listen to evaluate the person sharing it.  If the data agrees with their existing moral position, they find it and thus also the sharer to be credible. If it disagrees, both the data and the expert get dismissed automatically, thrown out with the bathwater.  

 

The composer Pauline Oliveros, who founded the Deep Listening Institute, believed all sound was legitimate and worth including in our awareness.  For instance, if an 18-wheeler thundered past a concert hall and shook the walls while a performance was in progress, in her view that sound too was part of the concert. 

 

“Listening is Love,” she often said.

 

It’s hard to hear opposing views when they are shouted, screamed, and when the shouter is apparently not listening to anything but the sound of his/her/their own voice.

 

But we can choose to listen in two directions: to them, and to the sound of our own voices.  Not just our words—and there are often words that must be said!—but how we say them. 

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,” begins the well-known prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.”

 

Can I be grounded and fully in my body—which is my instrument, per the October 14th blog—when I speak?  Can I remember to exhale deeply and let a deep calming breath come in before I begin?  Can I sense my mouth and throat, release a clenched jaw, recall some of the skills I use in singing, to modulate my tone in difficult conversations?

 

Are we sowing harmony, or contributing to the 18-wheeler “distraction” we instinctively try to tune out? 

 

Message me if you'd like to share your thoughts or experiences with this subject. 

You can also ask to join the private Sing into Joy FB Group here to delve deeper. Or visit and like our FaceBook page

©Danielle Woerner 2020

 

 


 

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