Dowsing as Chicken Soup - and G&T

By Corinne Duhig, 1st Soprano

Chicken soup?? Why? Because, when good, chicken soup is utterly delicious, nourishing, and just what you need for comfort when you are ill, and that is part of what Dowsing is for me. This is going to start rather glumly, but stick with me and there will be a happy ending.

For the last decade, I've suffered a disorder, fibromyalgia, that causes body-wide, unremitting muscle pain which is exacerbated by activity. That means that, in addition to the exhausting pain, I can't do shopping or housework (a small hooray!) but also I can’t do most of the things that used to make me happy: much of my job as an archaeologist, everyday cycling, tending the garden, going to the gym, dancing, most of all taking long, long walks in wild places. On top of that – literally — facial-nerve damage has destroyed my once-famous huge, happy, friendly smile. I can't help smiling spontaneously but I damp it down because it is lopsided and looks false and, to me, just icky.

Result: if you can't use your body, you are stuck in your head, if your face has changed you don't feel that you are yourself any more, and if you don’t smile you stop having smiley feelings. Potential downward spiral of glummitude.

So what have I done to get out of it? The constant recommendation of alternative therapists was singing, which I have always loved: warbling in the privacy of my own home, bellowing in a folky pub, carol singing. But I’ve not sung in any structured way since school, half a century ago. Like so many Dowsers, I googled for local choirs and found formal, auditioned ones that I certainly wouldn’t get in to and plenty of community ones that seemed undemanding and often a bit flaky. And then I found Dowsing, the big choir with the quality band, super-high standards and a slightly crazy set list, and its brilliant and adorable founder Andrea. And there were vacancies. And my husband (Neil C, tenor) wanted to join too! The first session was intimidating and exciting in unequal measure, then gradually what was intimidating became just challenging, the excitement took over, and now (sops: ‘... and now ... and now ...’) I've done my first small gig and am about to do a big one in glorious Ely Cathedral. All this with a group of people who are the most welcoming, warm, generous, fun and talented that anyone could wish for.

Dowsing has given me music that is delicious and an activity that feeds my soul, puts me back into my body yet helps me forget my pain. And the G & T? I’d lost my energy and my capacity for joy. Singing with Dowsing is like G & T, delicious and refreshing, sweet, sharp and bitter, giving me back my fizz.

It’s not all perfect, of course.  After some rehearsals I hobble away feeling as if I have been hit by a car, and have to spend the next day in bed, though that’s my own silly fault for being unable to stop moving to the music. When Andrea exhorts us to keep smiling, I want to weep — or bite someone. But I’ll keep on bopping with the sops, and if you see me and think I’m not greeting you very enthusiastically, now you know I’m giving you a HUGE grin really.