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Building community through harmonies
They get together on Monday nights to sing. There are no plans to perform and the songs are easy to learn, making them suitable for all ages. The Island Village SongCircle is starting up a new session on September 16.
It is led by Brian Hoover and Shasta Martinuk, who call themselves Village RhythmKeepers, and are offering two free sessions for islanders who want to come and try it out. But be warned - harmonizing with the Bowen group may be addictive.
Ron Serna has been singing with the SongCircle for three sessions and says it is one of the highlights of the week for him. “I love the singing and the community. I always feel refreshed, renewed and reinvigorated after an evening of SongCircle,” he said. Ellen Hayakawa reports a similar impression. “I joined the Village SongCircle when it was first offered on Bowen Island three years ago. My experience was one of welcoming, of openness and curiosity,” she said.
Both Serna and Hayakawa say that they enjoy singing harmonies and exploring music from different cultures.
“My favourite part is allowing myself to have musical conversations with other people. These are different conversations every time as the group dynamics are not held down by any formal structure - it’s people singing,” Hayakawa said. “Singing from the roots of different cultures touches each of us differently. I guess how deep it moves me is dependent on my personal roots. I like a lot of the African and South African chants, and particularly the medieval Gregorian style chants. My favourite is Dona Nobis Pacem, which translates to: give us peace.”
Building community is an important aspect to the Island Village SongCircle and the group is part of a network of Ubuntu choirs (ubuntuchoirs.net). Ubuntu is a Zulu word meaning: “I am because we are”. Serna sees the Island Village SongCircle as a powerful manifestation of both the individual and the power of the group in community.
“Singing individually is for the soul. Singing in harmonies together is a unifying soul force for peace in ourselves, in community and on this planet. It uplifts and transforms our individual souls and our collective soul body to greater love and peace through harmony,” he says. “It’s different every week and it’s always uplifting.”
Hayakawa describes the SongCircle as an “invitation to participate in singing.”
“There is no audition, everyone is welcome. You just need to show up. I think a belief that we all are part of a song and we sing that song everyday with our voice, our thoughts and actions reaches deep into the core of SongCircle. And that harmonizing with others is a pillar for community,” she said.
And the community is an inclusive one. “Shasta and Brian, our wonderful facilitators who lead the group, are extremely encouraging in helping Bowen Islanders to feel that wherever they are with their singing voices - that offering is more than enough to be a part of the group,” Serna says. “The songs are simple enough that everyone - child, adult or elder - feels welcome and comfortable singing them. Each individual has evolved in skills and sound in the time that I’ve participated. And that’s very satisfying to me as an individual, and to us as a circle.”
The Island Village SongCircle meets Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. at Bowen Court for 14 weeks, starting September 16.
Newcomers are encouraged to participate at no cost for the first two weeks. For those who decide to sign up, the fee is on a sliding scale from $75 to $150 for the 14-week session. Bursaries are available for people who need financial assistance and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Bowen Court. Call Shasta or Brian at 604-947-2283 for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org.