Achieving Sound Balance

Cat McDonnell, 1st Alto

My first experience of Dowsing was their Unpredictable gig at Great St Mary’s Church in 2011. A friend got me a ticket and we went along to see “Gav’s band”. That makes me laugh now! Gav is the bass player in Dowsing and I don't think he'll mind me pointing out that it’s not his band! That show at St Mary’s was completely unexpected and blew me away entirely. As each track was revealed I elbowed my friends, our grins got wider, the claps got firmer and I felt so incredibly lucky to be witnessing this performance. Singing a track by The National gave Dowsing serious cool points!! Singing in Icelandic?!!! I was speechless!!! As I watched them, I got really excited about the idea of getting involved, how cool would it be to join them up there?!!

Despite the excitement that night and wishing to be part of something so spellbinding, I actually did nothing. I was a busy professional with what I felt was a good job in a multinational, and that came first. I’d never been part of any after school clubs, or university societies and I continued in the same vein professionally. Any activities outside of a very demanding schedule were just not practical. On top of that I wasn't all that confident in my singing ability. Yeah, I had a bit of a reputation for getting tipsy and grabbing the mic at parties, once fashioning a top out of gold lamé fabric and strutting around to Poker Face in a massive blonde wig and sunglasses, but actually singing outside of a daft party piece was unchartered territory. A year passed.

At the Corn Exchange gig in 2012 I sat in the audience with Gav’s fiancé, Jess, and her Dad. A complete stranger who learned guitar later in life, he listened to me explain how I’d wished to join Dowsing a year previous, but somehow had not found the time or courage. As we drank in the sound that night he looked me square in the face and told me firmly that I had to do it, or I would always regret it. I believed him.

I made contact a few days later, but for some reason, and I know wholeheartedly it must be because of some technical glitch or fault on my behalf, I did not hear anything back. Weeks passed and I assumed Dowsing was not recruiting. I was gutted. I’d finally built up the courage to reach out but had missed the boat. What an awful wasted opportunity. In February this year I got chatting to Gav about that email and he assured me I should try a second time. So I made contact again and quick as a flash Andrea responded! Before I knew it I was going along to my first practice session. With a knot in my stomach but willing myself on I turned up and met Andrea for the first time. Well, what a woman. A force! Massive smile, genuine instant warmth and excited energy as she welcomed me in. It’s matter of fact that you’ve come along to sing…there is no preamble, no audition, nothing intimidating. This is one of the amazing things about Dowsing. The concept is inclusive and warm and nurturing, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to slot in. After warming up with some vocal exercises we sang arrangements for the upcoming Ely Cathedral gig. Since then my life has changed.

I bounced home with a smile like a Cheshire cat. I have not looked back. I became protective of my Tuesday evening rehearsals with Dowsing. Nothing, especially work, was going to get in the way of this amazing thing I'd become part of. I've never, ever in my life felt committed to anything extracurricular. I couldn't wait for the next session and literally skipped out my front door each week.  As the rehearsals went by and we practised a wide array of tracks and artists, I was thrilled to discover new music and appreciate material I already knew in a completely different way.  As an alto, I consider myself so lucky to sing the tune on a funk soaked Stevie Wonder number and deliver agonisingly beautiful harmonies on a Moby track. I've been on the verge of tears in some rehearsals covering Peter Gabriel and Coldplay as the atmosphere can be so overwhelming when we all work together and keep our eyes on Andrea, letting her direct us expertly with her expressions and gestures.

Having eventually discovered the gem that is Dowsing I’ve got it grasped in both hands. Being part of something so rewarding has made me realise that I had been completely incomplete, pensive and living some sort of blinkered life. I am so over that. It’s time to let something else in and it feels amazing. I am moving towards some sort of balance in life, I've gained confidence and the outlook is bright! A friend recently commented that in the last few months I have been more optimistic and enthusiastic about life than she’s seen me in years. That is the Dowsing effect and I am so utterly thankful I found it.