Finding Your Voice

Singing Lessons, Workshops and Therapy.

Today I was reminded of the joy of music collaboration when Neil Steward (guitarist/bass player) and I drove towards the Perth Hills to rehearse two songs for my upcoming album with the amazing Cathie Travers.

I first came across Cathie’s work when I saw her perform at a book launch – a book about Australian Women Composers in which she was represented – and was entranced by her work and kept talking about it even years later. So when Pete Grandison (Shanghai Twang recording studio) suggested I use her piano accordion skills for these two songs, I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the idea.  I was even more thrilled when she agreed.

One of the basic principles of music therapy, which is where my first university training lies, is that music communicates and brings people together in all sorts of ways. Even though  the focus of my passion shifted from music therapy to song writing and singing, this is something I carried with me, and a common thread in all my work. Writing a song communicates an idea or a feeling or a story that matters to me, and performing it can create a connection with people in the audience who have felt a similar way. Making music with others can be a glorious communication of subtle language – picking up on themes and ideas matching them, reflecting them back to each other, making group decisions about what does and doesn’t work, putting forward your ideas and point of view, knowing when to step back and follow someone else’s.

Today’s rehearsal was a joy of three people working together to serve the message and intent of the song. I took the risk of taking half-baked arrangements for us to flesh out together. Neil and I had already had a couple of rehearsals in which my basic song was fleshed out with rhythms and timbres (sound colours) and dynamics (louds and softs), and in which Neil suggested some more interesting versions of the chords I had chosen, but there was still much to be fleshed out today.

Cathie is the sort of musician who feels her way deep into the song and focuses on details like which type of accordion sound will most fit the song, and whether a swell in the note to contrast the guitar’s decay would work better, or if she should match the guitar’s decay. She can play the most delicate washes of sound, and beautifully raucous and lively music. She brought such musicality and sensitivity to the table.

But the joy of this was not just that it will (hopefully) make the album better, but in the moments of discovery and colloration and building something together. Even if she were not going to play on the album, this afternoon rehearsing and creating the texture and fabric of the container for the song is one I would have wanted to happen. Feeling the emotion and intent of the song, the message, being stitched by each of us with our respective roles – Cathy on accordion – Neil on nylon string guitar – and me on vocals, that was where the communication, the expression, the collaboration was already happening.

And Cathie lives on a beautiful bush block where we got to to watch kangaroos through the back door – three adults, one with a joey hanging out of her pouch.

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Raelene lives in Perth, Australia. She tours & is available for festivals, workshops, & country & interstate events.
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