Singing silence

It has struck me that I have written about various things here, but I haven’t really touched on singing, which is an important part of my life and forms part of the blog’s title.  So why not?  I’ve realised that singing is surprisingly hard to talk about.

Technically, I’m not a great singer.  I read music very slowly, and I understand very few of the concepts.  Yet I can vibrate my vocal cords, flap my lips and tongue around and create a noise which people tell me is very pleasant.  I can’t improvise a harmony as many people can, but I can learn a harmony and stick to it.  When I sing, I like to use the words and the emotion as much as (perhaps more than) the notes, so I’m probably more an actor who sings than a singer who acts.

So, it doesn’t make any sense to me, but it feels very right indeed. Better than right, in fact.  Singing in a group does something to the mind and soul which goes beyond description.  In a jolly or dramatic piece, you can be swept along on a tide of euphoria quite unlike anything else (for me, Carmina Burana and ‘There Is Nothing Like a Dame’ fulfil this role).  In a more reflective piece, you can feel your voice blending with others and it sends a shiver down your spine as each individual voice weaves and merges.  A choral version of something like ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is quite electrifying for the singers and audience alike due to the incomprehensible power of music.

But how do I really feel when I sing?  I really can’t describe it.  But there is a song that does.  It’s Electricity, a song from the new musical version of Billy Elliot, a song that Billy sings when he’s asked how it feels when he dances.  The lyrics are specific to his story, but they’re also universal, as I can see how they’d apply to the final brush-stroke of a painting or the moment that an invention begins to work just as much as to dancing or singing.  Elton John’s music holds back to allow Lee Hall’s words to fly.  Billy sings of how impossible it is to describe the feeling (‘I can’t really explain it, I haven’t got the words…’) and goes on to compare it to fire, electricity, flight and more.  And it’s true.  Seek out the full lyrics if you like, but one part that really speaks to me is this:

I feel it move me, like a burning deep inside
Something bursting me wide open, impossible to hide
And suddenly I’m flying, flying like a bird

And I’m free. Singing makes me free like nothing else does. I don’t understand it, but it gets inside of me, grabs hold of me and makes me free.

    • Claire
    • July 5th, 2006

    I could not agree more! Singing is my favourite activity ever! Shame I’m not doing much of it nowadays. I have different problems to you, in that I can harmonise off the cuff quite happily but have trouble reading music and hearing the notes in my head. Once I’ve learnt something though, I’m fine. Most of the singing I’ve done has been in choirs – I have never dared venture into operatics, I don’t think I have the voice for it!


  1. Lovely post.

    Wish I could sing.

    *Goes off to mournfully hum Handel’s Messiah – the Greatest Hits thereof, and imagine being in a choir*

  2. Goodness, I’ve never sung the Messiah. How strange! I have warbled the hallelujah chorus at a ‘just for fun’ taster rehearsal for a choir, but I haven’t sung any of the other bits. What a strange thing to be missing from my musical CV…

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