Notes and Reflections from our Thursday Night Sing

A group of women come together to sing each Thursday night at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, California. These are our notes and reflections.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

With Feeling!

Hey Ladies,
Here is a wonderful version of When the Saints with Louis Armstrong!

It has a great feel, some lovely horn solos, and the extra vocal touches are so funky!

Kathleen Battle's performance of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is gorgeous. Enjoy!

Both of these songs leave me with a feeling, a remnant of the sound. This week I would love to capture more of the feeling behind each song as we are singing. It's where the actor meets the singer!

Monday, November 29, 2010


Hi Ladies,

I just got home from my friend Sarah Wilson's cd release at Yoshi's and was so inspired by the improvisations! I think it would be fun to try a simple improv by creating percussion parts as the foundation and each of us adding horn parts on top. It could be really hilarious! (in the good way) Even car horns...

I wanted to share this version of Testimony, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock. It's in our songbook, so we could sing it on Thursday evening. I love all of the pictures of Sweet Honey over the years...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New songs for this week.

A gypsy friend of mine, who would travel each year from Canada to Mexico to skip the cold, taught me this song while sitting on a sunny beach.

A smooth version of a song we have been working on.

To add to our songs from the sea:

A folk song from Ecuador.  Loosely translated:  "I want you to bury me as my ancestors were buried:  In the earth, dark and a clay vessel".  I love the haunting harmonies in this version.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We will begin to arrange this song this week, so I wanted everyone to hear the original version:

A very ROOTS version of Yonder Come Day:

The same song arranged for a young choir:

Monday, September 27, 2010


At our last circle, we began to work a bit more closely on creating harmonies. It was very interesting to be asked "How do you harmonize?". I have been considering this question all week and I am very curious to continue to explore how we can all learn to harmonize and feel comfortable doing it. Here are some thoughts:

* Harmonizing is a unique process for each individual. Some people hear harmonies automatically when listening to a melody line, some do not.

* Much like our singing styles, the intervals (or distances between notes) that we use commonly have a great deal to do with our culture and what we are used to hearing. Eastern music uses a lot of fourths, while western music leans towards thirds and fifths (generally speaking).

* It is easier to begin to harmonize if you understand your range. For some people, finding lower harmonies feels more natural, others are attracted to higher note relationships.

I am excited to continue this study together and I am bringing some new ideas and activities to try next Thursday night. If you have any other thoughts about the subject of harmony, please comment below!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Down to the River

One of the sweet things about having our singing circle at the Freight & Salvage is that we are singing upstairs while some incredible music is being performed live right below us.  On September 30th, it just so happens that Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will be in the house as we are singing!  Here are details about that show:

In honor of this soul music, we will be singing a few favorites this week from the O'Brother Soundtrack.  I have added the lyrics to our songbook, which you will find a link to in the side bar.  Here are some inspiring versions of a few of the tunes:

Alison Krauss:

I love the faces of admiration from the boys in the front row as Hank Williams Sr.  sings:

Mr. Ralph Stanley:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Singing Together

I had really been missing singing with women and it was such a pleasure to begin our circle last week.
Here is the link to our first bunch of songs.  Some we got to, some we didn't, but this songbook will keep growing as we go along:
Women's Circle Songbook

I thought I would post some videos of different styles of  singers who are singing from different centers of their body. We worked a bit with getting our voices to resonate from the depths of our guts to the tops of our heads.  We are all able to make such diverse sounds with our voices.  It is interesting how different cultures tend to favor and develop vocal styles using their instruments in such unique ways.

Eastern European womens choirs belt out their vocals from with a nasal head voice:

Luzmila Carpio is from the mountains of Bolivia where the air is thin.  She sings so high up in her head voice that it is difficult at times to differentiate her voice from the flute.  If you are short on time, skip to around 1:07 to hear her reach great heights.  Incredible:

These women in the Congo are using chest voices:

Tuvan throat singers:

RIP Odetta:  A woman who knew how to sing from the depths of her belly: