Waiting to go on at Chapter on Friday night gave me time for thoughts like, ‘I’ve forgotten all the songs!’ and ‘What if I blast out a high note all on my own in the wrong place?!’. It was reassuring standing between my first Soprano compatriots. Starting with You’ve Got Time was so cool: Clap Clap, Stamp! – like saying, ‘Shut up and listen everyone, the Songbirds are here!’ After that our voices rang out and if I hadn’t been so busy concentrating on Rosie’s conducting (and great facial expressions!) I reckon I’d have shed a tear for the beauty and strength of the sound we made together. Continue reading Feeling proud (with a small sprinkling of panic) at Pride
Way back in December last year Songbirds were invited to perform at a wedding – the third matrimonial event we were to perform at as a choir. What it is to be in demand!
Having had plenty of notice, we had been learning new material over the spring and were really looking forward to have the opportunity to perform it. Continue reading Treowen Manor: Wedding Serenades and a Wall of Cows
Touching greatness in 2015…
Hailing from Winchester, Rozi Plain seems to be popping up all over the place at the moment. (If you correctly interpret ‘all over the place’ as ‘all over the Radio 6 playlists’…)
The latest of her records ‘Friend’ was written while she was living on a boat – a fact which is reflected in its unhurried flow and in one or two disctinctly watery lines.
She also plays with This Is the Kit.
2015 album: ‘Friend’
Listen to this: when you’re feeling philosophical and just a little bit wise.
‘It will be reported to be
a difficult year,
a tumultous year…’ (‘Actually’)
‘It is known that it changed
it had just been rearranged
so the bad and sort of okay
is weighted differently
Julia Nunes gained something of a cult following for her YouTube renditions of pop songs, layering sound and video in order to play ALL THE PARTS. However, she is also a mighty fine songwriter.
She is dating Dannielle Owens-Reid of Everyoneisgay.com fame. #FanGirlFacts
2015 album: ‘Some Feelings’
Listen to this: when you’ve started to knit the pieces of your broken heart back together and you’re feeling pretty good about it.
‘I want to make so many mistakes
that you’re lowest on the list
I want to make mistakes
and I want you to hear about it…’ (‘Something Bad’)
‘Had I known when I was deciding
that I would feel it
in every empty shelf
I may have stopped myself…’ (‘I Don’t Want to’)
…is my favourite find of the last six months. She is just this fantastically exciting combination of classic storytelling and subtle twists of phrase. She makes me want to pick up my guitar and write ten songs in a row.
Samantha Crain is from Shawnee, Oklahoma, and she’ll appeal to country music fans, words people and anyone who enjoys full rich vocals.
2015 album: ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
Listen to this: when you’re looking for something rich but tender.
‘My neighbour died on Sunday
35 years old.
Never asked for sugar.
Never said hello…’ (‘You or Mystery’)
‘I know I you broke it,
but I’ve got spare parts.
When you come back
would you bring my heart.’ (‘When You Come Back’)
Keep your ears peeled for these in 2016…
Lucius are a super-hip five piece from Brooklyn, New York.
Clever, clever writing with full arrangements that drape themselves around the closely harmonised dual vocals of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig.
‘Wildewoman’ (2013) was amazing and I am very excited about this year’s offering…
2016 album: ‘Good Grief’ – due out on the 11th March.
Has been a great lyrical love of mine for many years! In my first year of university I listened to ‘These Pages’ on repeat for a week, then wrote my first proper song. (For ‘proper’ read ‘not terrible/excruciating/teenage’).
Sexy americana cool with heartfeels and a handsome wry smile.
2016 album: ‘Back in the Ring’ – due out on the 1st of April.
Feeling musical now?
Excellent – why not come along to a Songbirds rehearsal?
Every Wednesday at 7.30pm, City URC on Windsor Place, Cardiff.
Songbirds Choir is a non-auditioning community choir for self-defining Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans* women.
After a previous weekend away several years ago, it was decided that we would go away again as a choir. Having been on the previous trip I was very much looking forward to a weekend staying in the fabulous Holt Farm in rural Herefordshire. The farm is very well-suited for our purposes with a large barn for rehearsal and social space, as well as accommodation for over 20 enthusiastic birdies! To top that it is located in a beautiful area of the country with views of the rolling hills and valleys, as well as the occasional badger for company.
We headed up through Friday and were all settled in time for dinner. Replete with our bellies full of delicious chilli (even if I do say so myself), we kicked off the weekend with a nice sit down and a film. For a choir, I don’t think there’s a more acca-awesome choice than Pitch Perfect… and it wasn’t just those who already knew the film who were singing along before the end!
Saturday dawned bright and somewhat breezy, which several early birds took advantage of by heading out onto the ‘lesbian highway’ for a run, while others got the customary bacon sandwiches / tofu scramble going.
After breakfast we started the choir practice in earnest with sectionals and it was great for us to have time as separate sections to work with Rosie on areas that we find more challenging – and allowed us to really focus our attention as a group. We then went into a whole choir rehearsal and spent some much-needed time working on our Welsh pronunciation with support from those who siarad Cymraeg.
We were lucky enough to have a visiting massage therapist – a lovely surprise and treat! Everyone had the opportunity to have a short treatment during the day, and from hearing what others including myself thought, I’m sure there will be some birdy bookings for Francesca.
Next on the menu was lunch, followed by another rehearsal where we covered some up-beat Christmas songs including everyone’s favourite from a Muppet Christmas carol, as well as one for any resident Kelly Clarkson fans. Later in the afternoon Rosie ran a workshop on conducting, giving each choir member the opportunity to conduct the choir. Most people had not experienced this before and it was really interesting in terms of giving us all the perspective of how it feels to conduct a group of people, but also how well we responded as a choir to each other’s interpretations of the songs – well done everyone for really joining in!
With the wind and rain picking up outside, it was a lovely warming curry for dinner which was just what we needed to pick us up after a day of working hard on our singing! Finally, Saturday evening entertainment: cabaret. Or for me, just a normal evening; having Amo (everyone’s favourite exhibitionist) organise this meant that somehow Amo ended up performing five times. Mysterious that everyone approached to perform somehow managed to somehow end up with a guitar-based accompaniment…
However, I certainly wouldn’t have considered performing on my own and having a willing accomplice meant that some more reserved people including myself were able to give it a go. The Cabaret (a.k.a. The Amo Show) was kicked off with a beautiful and soulful cover of ‘Perfect Day’ by Laura feat. Amo, with Selena, Lucy, Sunny and of course our Chief Owl Rosie also all taking a turn to sing. Turning the tempo up a notch was Eve who showed us her flamenco talents, before Julia, concluding the evening’s organised entertainments, took to the floor and channelled the very spirit of Tina Turner. With audience participation at a high level from the excitement of the cabaret, it wasn’t surprising that some dancing, singing and inevitable Kate Bush impersonations followed. While a select few decided to sample the famous Holt Farm hot-tubs, the more sensible among us stayed to polish the evening off with a cup of tea.
After a rather blustery and late night, even with a start that was a tad later than that of Saturday, the less that is said of the ‘hangover rehearsal’ the better really… We had a relaxed lunch and a few people stretched their legs checking out the view from the top of the ridge. Others had one-to-one singing lessions with Rosie before reconvening for the final rehearsal of the weekend where we covered some traditional Christmas songs to get us ready for the festive season. We rounded off the day with some board-games, a jigsaw and a roast dinner (followed by a generous serving of apple crumble and custard) and finished the weekend off with a few renditions of our favourite lesbian classics (Joan Armatrading anybody?). The perfect ending to a lovely weekend!
Kate Bodd, November 2015
When my mother taught me to sing she gave me a headful of songs. She passed me down a dozen or so of her favourites, each one learned by singing and repeating back. I remember lying in our campervan carefully receiving verse and chorus and committing it to memory.
‘…If I had the riches/Of the East or West Indies/If I had the Gold of the African shore./If I could gain thousands/I’d lie on your bosom./You’d be my greenwood laddie/The boy I’d adore…’
At first I was only able to follow her, joining in and being carried along by the strength of her contralto. And each week we’d amuse the denizens of the folk club with a new outrageous song. My mother was anxious that the rest of the group shouldn’t feel the need to censor themselves in their choice of songs on my (eight year old) account and so she devised that we should sing at least one rude song each week, just to make them comfortable. So dutifully, I learned to reel off ‘Seven Drunken Nights’, ‘Maids When You’re Young’, ‘Firelock Stile’ etc. with great enthusiasm.
‘So come all young men, come listen awhile,/I’ll tell you what happened at Firelock Stile,/When a stump of a nail catched hold of her clothes/She fell down, and did expose…’
As I grew older I realised the importance of listening to the voices around you and learned to find the harmonies, those sweet places to lay down a variation on the lead voice and add texture and an extra depth the body of the sound. And so I learned to harmonise with my mum, practising in our living room by holding hands and sending our voices up together, interweaving and entwining around the pattern of a careworn song.
‘…So far doe-ray-me/Sing to me loudly,/Serenade me,/Mess with the melody./Light and shade/All my eyes can see…’
Since leaving home I don’t sing with my mother so often, but when I do I’m always heartened by the ease with which our voices slide together, as I lean in to add my complement to her song; a comfortable return to a long tradition.
Yet, as is the way of things, new traditions spring up only a step or two away from the older root and now I find myself singing more and more with my partner. It’s a natural but entirely different fit as I place my lower voice beneath hers to give support and add weight to our sound. And while we don’t perform as a duo, we are often singing our way through the world, passing the time as we walk home or out to meet our friends.
It occurs to me that the union of voices is a symbolic representation of the meeting of our spirits, an ephemeral emblem of the ways in which we complement each other in our personalities, and a deeply personal connection.
This is possibly a source of our strength as a community choir. Although we rehearse in a friendly and supportive environment, to add your voice to the greater sound is to give something of yourself. Yet we give and receive in equal measure, as we accept the trust of the women who sit around us, hearing their voices and giving our response. Is it any wonder that the bonds we build are strong ones?
– Amo Rex, Oct 2015
Songbirds Choir meets at 7.30 every Wednesday at City United Reform Church, Windsor Place, Cardiff.
Trigger Warning: mention of sexual violence towards women.
In a break from the usual menu of loud music and the sounds of celebration, the ears of the Cardiff nightlife last night were filled with the chants of feminists and pro-feminist allies.
The last week has seen three sexual attacks against women in their early twenties, coinciding with the arrival of large numbers of new students in Cardiff. All three attacks have taken place in the early hours of the morning and have been focussed around Cardiff University’s central buildings and the Cathays area of Cardiff which is largely populated by students.
In response to this spate of attacks against women in Cardiff, local feminists organised an emergency Reclaim The Night march to give visibility to the message that violence against women and the victim blaming which perpetuates rape culture are not and have never been acceptable.
Protesters gathered at the Aneurin Bevan statue on Queen Street before setting off to march through the streets of Cardiff. With dazzling irony the predominantly female group was then immediately herded by male police officers and funnelled along a ‘safe’ route which largely avoided the busy areas of town, focussing instead on King Edward VII Avenue and Park Place. Police officers then instructed the march that the agreed finish point for the ‘procession’ was Gorsedd gardens. In a display of unity, the group responded to the rallying cry of ‘Whose streets?’ with a decisive ‘OUR STREETS’, progressing the march back towards the centre of town along the seething Greyfriars Road. This was arguably the most effective section of the march as throngs of students and revellers queuing outside venues looked on, taking in the banners and vocal feminist presence.
While Reclaim The Night marches are unlikely to stop the perpetrators of rape, the hope is that displays of resistance like this one will demonstrate support for the opposition of rape culture. The hope is to raise the confidence of individuals to speak up against the misogynistic language and behaviour which normalises and perpetuates sexual violence against women.
However, as activist and founder of Harmony Campaign, Emily Cottrell explained to the march – ‘While Reclaim The Night is important, this is a reaction not a solution to the problem of sexual violence.’
A member of Songbirds Choir, Emily set up Harmony Campaign in order to work towards her vision – ‘a society in which everyone is taught the value of consent, so that all sexual encounters and relationships are equal, safe and consensual, and rape and sexual assault are eradicated at the source.’
Emily took the time to explain a bit about the origins of the project and where it is headed –
What motivated you to set up Harmony Campaign?
I was motivated to set up the Harmony Campaign after I had a slightly nasty experience whilst very drunk. I realised that so often in the consent debate, there seem to be grey areas but there absolutely shouldn’t be – people should know exactly what constitutes consent. But children aren’t taught in school about respecting each other’s boundaries. Consent is not on the curriculum in Wales. Too many people reach university age still not knowing what consent really is – it’s so much more than just ‘no means no’ – and by this point it is far too late.
What would you like to achieve with the project?
I envisage a world where, from a young age, children are taught about consent – not sexual consent to begin with, of course, but respecting bodily autonomy, asking permission, listening to others, etc. I also think that it’s incredibly important to inform young people of the laws surrounding consent, and what can happen to them (prison, the sex offender’s register, etc.) if they don’t comply. This really isn’t a simple thing to achieve. We need to undo the work of centuries, of a society where men are taught that they are entitled to women’s bodies and too much is seen as ‘blurred lines’.
How do you intend to take those aims forward?
Education is the most important factor, so my future plans currently include: Campaigning for changes in the curriculum, providing workshops and poster campaigns in schools, youth clubs and universities, teaching teachers how to deal with consent issues. Offering a source of information and advice through the website and a helpline I would also like to run more practical action on the ground, such as providing free transport for women at night.
What do you think our response should be to the latest spate of sexual attacks in Cardiff?
We need to react quickly and loudly to the recent spate of sexual attacks in Cardiff. The Reclaim the Night march was a perfect way to demonstrate that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. It is very important that we promote personal safety without victim-blaming but reactive responses such as Dragon Taxis offering their deal with Cardiff University are important.
What would your advice to students be?
My response to students is this: look after each other. Girls, make sure you have all your friends’ phone numbers and never leave a venue without checking you have everyone with you. Check your phone regularly to see if anyone has called you. Look after your drunk friends and take them home if they’re too drunk. And boys, never forget that in the eyes of the law, any sex with a drunk girl is rape – for the sake of one night, don’t risk it.
In spite of our varied experiences and whether or not we identify as feminists on an individual level, as a choir of Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans* women operating as a women only group we can only be support of Reclaim The Night organiser Kate Blower’s statement that, ‘Women shouldn’t have to live lives where their movements in public spaces are restricted.’ Songbirds Choir continues to rehease and perform unapologetically as members of the LGBT* community, but also as women.
– Songbirds Choir meets 7.30pm every Wednesday at United City Reformed Church, Windsor Place, Cardiff.