Soluna Whaley (2013)

To me music is magic -- it's an invisible force which pierces through the barriers we've built around us into our most intimate places within and sets them alive. I have lowered veils of mistrust, pain, anger, and arrogance when someone has made music near me. It has often brought me to my knees. I know others have lowered veils when I sang to them.

A friend of mine told me that when I went for my divorce I should pay special attention to my shoes. I wore brilliant gold slippers with beaded stars and suns and a woman next to me, also there to get her divorce, asked me, "Where did you get those?" Twenty minutes later we were in tears sharing the most intimate stories. We were in the elevator going up to the courtroom and I sang to her one of the songs you've heard tonight, "Woyaya." She said she sang that song in her head through the whole court process. I feel a powerful alignment with my soul when I sing -- and when I cannot sing I am also lost.

I was working in Uganda, evaluating the progress of 35 women's self-help groups. I was on the border of the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo, there were no radios, CD players, no iPods. There were few of what we understand as musical instruments. There were water jugs, our feet, our hands, and our voices. Every time I visited a women's self-help group, I noticed a marked difference between groups which were doing spectacularly well -- that had found hope, joy, and freedom as women combined their unique gifts with those of other women to rebuild their homes and communities -- and those groups which found discord, hostility, and an inability to let go and love. Always, from far off I would walk down the foot path to meet those groups which were healing and I could hear the beating of the jerry cans, feel their stamping feet, hear their voices. The Bugongyi Grandmother's sang this song which means "Welcome, honored guest, to our women's group."

Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe cha cha

Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe cha cha

Ezoba yamwenu ye-eh-eh

Yushugwema mutuwenmwa tushugwema ezomazi

Ezoba yamwenu ye-eh-eh

Kon fishirimi mugena tushugwema ezomazi

Nitubanza oxima ye-eh-eh

Abejenyi betubmwena vesereha puturena

Mutabaro kemhanga ye-eh-eh

Enzibo namaware ebmiwante lomukweja

Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe cha cha

Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe Tushemeregwe cha cha

Ezoba yamwe nu ye-eh-eh

Tushugwema mutuwenmwa tushugwema ezomazi

Ezoba yamwenu ye-eh-eh

Kon fishirimi mugena tushugwema ezomazi

The song is Tushemeregwe [MP3 track] in the language Rukiga sung by the Bugongyi Grandmother's Group of Bugong, near the towns Rukungiri and Kanungu of Uganda. The MP3 track was recorded during the Spring 2013 Concert.

Up to two years ago, so much of my heart has lain silent. Gradually, my heart demanded to be free. You see, in Uganda I learned that souls never die. They whisper silently, wait patiently until we drop our many veils; then they shine so blindingly bright, some so veiled cannot see them.

May you trust us to lower your veils and let our song set your heart free.

Jennifer Walker (2012)

I grew up in a very musical family. Someone was always playing the piano or singing, or we were doing both. My mother and two of my sisters played the piano, everyone sang together around the piano, or when we were doing the dishes. There was only one problem; of the whole family I was the only one who could not read music! So naturally, I was always assigned to sing the melody. Like many girls in a musical family, I sang in the church choir and in Girls Choir in Junior High School.

Gradually life changed and I stopped singing for many years. Several years ago, one of my friends who was in Tucson Women's Chorus, invited me to their Spring Concert. From the first moment of hearing the lovely women's voices singing "Woman am I" and seeing all those women coming down the aisle at St. Mark's Church with their lighted candles, I was hooked. I loved the concert, and I could not get over the variety and different languages of the songs. I could hardly wait until fall to join. My friend assured me there were no tryouts and we did not have to read music, so I was ready to do it!

That very next fall I joined Tucson Women's Chorus, paid my fee the first night and got the packet of music and the cd. When I got home I looked at all the sheet music and...remembered I can't read music. I listened to the practice cd, suddenly I was overwhelmed. What had I done?

However, I decided to trust the process. You see, Karleena teaches music in a very unconventional way. She sings a short section of a song, then has us sing it with her. Then she does that with a longer bit, and then a longer bit. She does this again. And again. (Like she did with you all a little while ago.) And pretty soon, you are singing two part harmony on your second night of chorus practice. The songs are so beautiful that sometimes I get tears in my eyes when I listen to all of us sing. Sometimes the songs and Karleena's arrangements are hilarious, and we all fall out laughing. Sometimes we sing the same verse over so many times you think your eyes will cross. Sometimes it all comes together, and we are amazing.

I have learned of two different places to not practice: don't sing when walking the dogs and watch your speed if you sing in the car!

But the thing that amazes me most about Karleena, is that she believes we are better than we are! Because she believes we are better than we really are, we try to be that good! Karleena has patience with all of the very different women in Tucson Women's Chorus, and oh! are we different! So after three years, I trust the process, practice every day, try to attend chorus and then get to perform in front of an audience, singing. Can you believe it!

Anna Van Devender

Singing is a very portable hobby. It's perfectly normal for me to break into "Bowl, a choca-choca-bowl" while working in the kitchen. "Put a little flex in your plan" has gotten me through more than one traffic jam. "So many angels" is a natural lullaby. "May all beings be happy" was put to use in a memorial service. And "The Tarantulas" is a top request by my toddler, up there with "Row row row your boat" and "The wheels on the bus"

I grew up surrounded by Girl Scout and Campfire Girl songs sung by my mother, grandmother, and great-aunt. Elementary school musicals got me on stage for the first time, and I lucked out that choir really was the cool thing to do at my Junior High. High school choir took me to European cathedrals and the Swiss Alps, and I brought back life-changing memories. I've never minded that some of my peers had far more skill than me. Singing and sharing music together is what matters.

I am grateful for many things musical:

I hope that music, whether with your voice or another instrument, can make its way into the many different parts of your own lives too.