Breathing Together

mosaic art about singing in 4-part harmony by Lynn Bridge

photograph by Charlotte Bell.

The Big Sing

9 1/4″ x 9 1/2″ x 2 1/4″.  Copyright 2009 by Lynn Bridge.

I am not really a singer.  Not in the sense we usually use the word- professional- a person audiences would pay to hear.   But, I sing.  Not only do I occasionally sing with the radio and sing an appropriate lyric to a peculiar situation and (shhhhhhh… sing to my cats), but I sang in our church choir for 23 years before I chose to do a few other activities before I die.

My mom and her sisters and brother all have or had wonderful, resonant voices and have often sung publicly.  My cousins and I didn’t inherit the ability for big singing, but I’m happy to report that a few in the next generation are big singers.  I don’t care who hears me sing; I simply refuse to be embarrassed by my less-than-meaty voice.  Many people don’t feel this way, however, and they expend energy avoiding situations in which their singing voices might be heard.

Craig Hella Johnson, the conductor of Conspirare, a notable Austin choral group, and my favorite choir of all time, believes that everyone needs to sing, no matter their training or their ability.  He says that singing is deep within everyone.  He initiated “The Big Sing”, an opportunity for people of every level of talent to show up for an hour and sing together in a cathedral-like space, a room that will “give back to us”, as our conductor said.  More than 200 people showed up.

He first taught us about “breathing like babies”, that effortless, deep breathing of a sleeping infant.  After running us through some choral stretches and warm-ups, we sang a few simple songs and added harmony in places to please the more advanced singers in the group.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience enough to want to participate in the next Big Sing, scheduled for March.  The word “Conspirare” means ‘to breathe together’ in Latin, and indeed, when we sing we are truly breathing together.  It is hard to do battle with each other when we are all breathing together.

As with singing, I believe that everyone needs to draw or paint or sculpt, not to mention write and act!  In our culture we learn early, usually by sixth grade, that these activities are for the chosen few, the pros or future pros, and don’t have much to do with our lives.  I like to put the lie to this concept at every opportunity.

Recently I was leading a class in art at a retirement home.  The students were a group of ladies, some of whose minds were a bit past prime, but who were all eager to participate.  I had them drawing lines of various sorts all the way across their papers, and the ladies were surprised to discover within themselves the ability to discern style, energy levels, perspective, and meaning in the lines they had drawn.  What a great discovery!

Why do we have to wait until retirement to discover art? What improved lives we’d lead if we were not embarrassed by our bodies, our voices, or our abilities.  We could then use what we have been given, and what a gift that would be!

I made this mosaic about The Big Sing.  There is some order and some spontaneity.  There is intensity and mellowness.  There is boldness and there is inexperience.  There is harmony and there is rhythm and there is melody.  You can see awkwardness and elegance.  There are cool voices and warm voices, deep voices, high voices, small voices, big voices.  There is togetherness and joy.  There is breath.

detail of a mosaic about The Big Sing by Lynn Bridge


The Big Sing

Copyright 2009 by Lynn Bridge