What music can do

Hello all.  It’s Andrea (founder) again here.  I’ve just read through all the blogs so far (there’s another one to come yet!) and am feeling a bit astonished at how much creativity and excitement there is beating away at the heart of this all…. not to mention becoming pretty choked at the last blog posting, by the lovely Will Cramer.

We are nearly there now, and things have been going incredibly well during the final few rehearsals in the lead up to the big day, encapsulated pretty perfectly by our drummer, Paul Richards, in his own blog posting here.  There’s a kind of euphoria building, and the gig on Saturday is going to be, in the words of our incredible violinist (and mandolin player!) Nicky Haire, colossal.

There is another side though to this gig though – tied up with what the music we’re singing ‘does’ to and for people in the group (and the audience at the gigs), and this was highlighted to me in a blog posting by one of the choir that wishes to remain anonymous.  In some senses, the blog takes us closer to Blue Smile again, and the incredible work they do with vulnerable children in Cambridgeshire.

So I’d like to thank this person for their honesty.  It is quite a big read, but as anyone will know who has struggled with depression, it can be completely and utterly debilitating.  The following text takes us through some of these feelings, before ending with a resounding, deep, celebration of what, somehow, Dowsing for Sound is becoming.

Beating depression the Dowsing way: 

Nearly a quarter of the population will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, and the web is awash with advice, tips and hints to help people mitigate, prevent or even (perhaps unrealistically) cure depression.  As a sufferer myself, I thought I would offer such a list to give you an insight into what Dowsing for Sound has meant for me over the past year or so.

Tip 1: Be in the moment!  

Depression pulled me away from the world and into a maelstrom of negative thoughts.  “You’re worthless.  You don’t matter to anyone.  You can’t do anything right.” They sound ridiculous when you say them out loud or write them down, but you don’t see that when you’re in the grip of them.  Dowsing for Sound provided me some respite from the maelstrom.  There were rare moments in rehearsals when I was so caught up in the music, in the pure unadulterated joy of letting the notes soar, in the bright smiles and shining eyes of everyone in the room, that the negative thoughts momentarily lost their grip.  Those moments of respite made the world seem less unremittingly grey.  They were just enough to remind me that there was happiness to be had in the world, and that I had not completely lost my capacity for it.  As I move closer and closer to recovery, I treasure those moments more and more.

Tip 2: Realise that you are not alone

At the worst of the depression, it felt as though I was the only one in the world who felt this way, as though I was weird and crazy and a freak and no one else would understand.  In that state, when I wasn’t rational enough to see that this couldn’t possibly be true, it was the music and lyrics of the songs that got through to me.  Afterwhile, Mercy Street, Storm Comin’, Let it Be – Andrea’s music choices couldn’t have been more apposite.  Sometimes it was almost too painful to listen closely to the lyrics, but more often than not I could throw myself into the songs and allow someone else’s words to speak my thoughts. 

Tip 3: Do something for the sheer fun of it.

Depression often strikes those of us who are perfectionists, who get caught up in doing everything right and who cannot help but beat ourselves up when things go wrong.  So much of my life was and still is ruled by that perfectionism, but not Dowsing for Sound.  Yes, we wanted to sing to the best of our ability, but Andrea created a culture that is more about enjoyment, energy and communicating with the audience than about being note-perfect.  There was a profound sense of freedom in letting go of my need to get everything right, and just being able to be myself, with all my flaws, imperfections and wrong notes.  Dowsing for Sound gave me a taste of that, enough to know that this was how I wanted to live my life, and I am slowly learning to do that.

Tip 4: Connect with people

Depression is deeply, horribly isolating.  I was very hard to be around when I was particularly depressed, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe that people genuinely liked or cared about me.  The rehearsals, and the banter in the pub afterwards, brought me out of my depression-induced shell.  Singing is so inherently emotional that you can’t help but feel connected to the people around you, and those connections became all the stronger as our first gig approached.  So many of us had never sung in public before, and we shared the same fear, the same apprehension and the same excitement and sense of achievement when we accomplished something far beyond our expectations.

I couldn’t believe that these people who I had known less than a year would so readily offer support, even if it was just a smile or asking how I was and meaning it.  Still less can I believe, even now, how many close friends I have gained.  I’m sure that not all choirs are like this, but somehow we have created an atmosphere where we all support each other, willing each other to succeed, taking an interest in each other’s lives beyond the weekly rehearsal.  

The true spirit of Dowsing for Sound isn’t in being technically perfect (although we are technically very good).  It’s in the sheer joy and exuberance that we bring to what we do, in the way we communicate the emotional power of the music and lyrics, in the way that we are able to be completely ourselves, as diverse and vibrant as we are, and in the strong sense of connection and unity that we have created.  That’s the spirit that I’m sure we will bring to the gig, and it’s been utterly, completely life-affirming to be part of it.