its another true story….Angela Kirton-Davies

carvants quote

So here’s the 2nd amazing story – thank you so much to those of you that are sending them in – they are so inspiring for others to read and really challenging for those of us who identify with the stories.

The next story is from the lovely Angela Kirton-Davies who by all accounts has become rather famous in Wales since she began singing with Sing & Inspire and the Tenovus Cancer charity. We founded the original ‘SIng For Life’ choir with Tenovus way back in 2010 and Angela who had been suffering with ovarian cancer was one of the very 1st members. In Angela’s words she said singing in the choir ‘literally saved her life!’

As all of the story’s on the blog are, this one is unedited in the name of authenticity. If you feel compelled to do so, please comment after reading the stories, as so many of the contributors have been very brave in sharing their journeys..

Get the tissues ready – here’s the beautiful Angela’s story…in her words.

Hi everyone my name is Angela Davies – I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, April fools day would you believe. I had a family to look after consisting of a husband – 21 year old son – 9 year old son and a mum and dad who needed a lot of care – dad had Parkinson’s disease and mum had dementia. We all lived together and had done for 15 years so that we could give a little back for all that they had done for me – they had always encouraged me in everything that I had done and I was not going to desert them in their time of need! As you can see this extra news was a bomb shell and I fell apart- I was already dead in my mind as I needed a massive operation to remove what the negligent gynaecologist had missed whilst under her care for 6 YEARS! So I had everything that could be removed – taken out and had some chemo which did not work. I then needed another type of chemo – and this held what had become a secondary inoperable and terminal cancer – back just for a while. I asked if it would eventually kill me and they were honest and said YES and that I had about 2 years to live!!!! –

I fell to pieces and my husband contacted the cancer charity TENOVUS. My second counselling call came and whilst we chatted my counsellor asked me if I liked to sing – my reply was yes – in the bath or shower. She then told me of a company called ‘Sing and inspire’ who – had impressed the Chief Executive of Tenovus so much so, that she thought it would help her clients and therefore she was setting up a choir. I thought – no way – I’m not going! But deep down I really wanted to go and by the third week my husband had set up some care cover for my parents and he and Joshua bundled me into the car and I am so glad that they did. When we walked through the door it was as if we had all known one another all our lives – now I am a hugs and kisses kind of person and that’s just what I got from perfect strangers who felt like old friends it was weird but wonderfully so! It didn’t matter that the three of us couldn’t read music we were given sheets of words but also CD discs to take home and play until we knew our parts. I used to sing to mum and dad and they loved it – I loved it and started to look forward to Thursdays like never before. The team of Andrea, George(ina) and Dave had so much enthusiasm that it was infectious and of course we all started to jell as each Thursday went by. We even had some tests done on us by a lady called Nicola from the UHW – now these tests proved that our lung capacity increased as did out tolerance to pain and of course it proved that the happy chemicals in our bodies started to work more efficiently. It was fantastic and then came the sad news – our singing was so good and loud that the other people using the centre couldn’t hear their bingo caller and we had to move!!!

We now sing in a huge church in Pontypridd!! It’s fantastic we have had so many new members join us and we call ourselves -The Sing For Life Choir (family) I can honestly say that I don’t know what I would have done if singing had not come into mine and my families lives in fact I dread to think about it – it has given me something to look forward to and something to take a pride in – I want to give my all in every performance and that’s what we all do. The Princess Royal is our patron and at our very first performance I noticed that she had a little giggle as did we, because whilst we did give our ‘all’s’ we were not that wonderful – but just a few months later on a meet and greet with her for the ‘Love light Candle Concert’ – I reminded her of her giggle and told her that the difference between this now ‘maturer’ choir and the ‘baby’ choir that she had heard just a few months earlier would blow her away and it did just that I saw her as did others – wipe away a tear.

Singing is definitely good for your health and I am living proof of that – from that frightened shell of a woman given 2 years to live in 2008 – here I am in 2013 still belting out the most uplifting songs- giving interviews on TV and radio as well as the tabloids and magazines talking about cancer and the choir and I have even stood on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London – no not to clean it – but to sing in front of thousands of people all standing and cheering and dancing with us and the likes of Alice Cooper and Brian May!!! I still have to pinch myself about that one!

But the biggest thrill I had was when one of our musical directors – Patrick called me over and told me that I had one of the best soprano voices that he had ever heard – well that’s up there with marrying Glyn and having my 2 boys Christopher and Joshua and the best parents in the world. Thank you so much ‘Sing and inspire’ and thank you Claudia for believing in ‘Sing and inspire’ and the affect that they would have on our lives. I can be in terrible pain for a few days and in bed but when Thursday comes around something inside me thinks now just get one foot out at a time and have a rest then get up and wash and get dressed and by that time I’m already and waiting to get through the doors to be hugged and kisses by my loving ‘Sing for life’ family. Thank you so much ‘Sing and Inspire’ for bringing me and my family so much fun – love and laughter, all my love Angela and the boys xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

WOW! what a story – and here she is (with me) pictured at an event the choir sang at in Cardiff a few years ago – I believe it was a choir members 40th!
Andrea & Angela

Angela, you’re an inspiration – I love how your whole family are singing weekly and you’re still here spreading joy and love to everyone you see. Thank you for being you and sharing your story with me – I really appreciate it as I’m sure many others will after reading this!

Here are some links some folk might find useful

http://www.tenovus.com/how-we-can-help-you/sing-with-us/

http://www.singandinspire.com/

 

Until the next time…….keep singing, keep feeling and keep being in the moment…..amazing things can happen in your life if you do…. 🙂

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Here come the stories……

find your voice pic

Hello folks – so its been a whopping three months since my last post (this almost feels like confessional!) summer hit me with all of its busy busy-ness and the posts went on the backburner.

As a wonderful result however, I now have 3 stories to share with you from some folk who introduced singing into their lives and how it has impacted them.

I was initially going to edit these posts as I will be doing for the book but I’ve decided to post the stories as they are for the blog, because it resonates with the authenticity of the people who wrote them. These stories are personal to the singers that poured their lives out on an email for me and I don’t think I should be the one to disrupt that process.

so – to make up for the lack of monthly posting, I’ll be posting up 3 posts each with a story about how singing has changed a life.

The 1st story is from the lovely Louise Czekaj who is one of the members of one of our Sing & Inspire Superchoirs. Louise’s story is really centred around meeting My business partner, Georgina Jones (George) and I for a training session that changed her perspective and began her process of healing, by helping her centre and ultimately ‘find her voice’. Its very inspirational and you’ll notice that’s it written personally to me, So it might help if you put yourself in my (Andrea’s) shoes when you read it to feel the impact of her journey.

so here we go…..
“When I first met you and George in 2011, I was slowly starting to get back on track after suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for about six years. I had an extremely stressful 2004 and over a year later, I started feeling as if I was going to faint in public all the time. I didn’t make the connection to the stress in 2004 immediately. The first time it happened was on the Tube in London, the morning after a huge drinking session, which I put down to being hung-over but then it started to happen all the time: on the train to work; walking down Queen Street; whilst sat in the pub with friends. It started to seriously freak me out.

I went to the doctors (thinking that perhaps I was anaemic) but after several tests my local GP said I was fine and that it was probably anxiety; the feeling I was experiencing on a daily basis with no warning or reason was the ‘fight or flight’ sensation and it was causing me to have panic attacks. She asked if I had suffered from any stressful events recently and I discovered that it was some sort of post-traumatic, delayed reaction to the stress of the previous year. She told me that if I suffered from an attack I should just take deep breaths, then offered to put me on beta-blockers and sign me off work for a month, which terrified me because I knew what a slippery slope that could be. I didn’t want to end up at home stuck on medication and afraid to leave my flat so I chose instead to carry on, in the hope that it would go away.

It didn’t just ‘go away’. It was really frustrating, because I knew that there was nothing physically wrong with me and that my mind was making the attacks happen, yet I had no control over it. Prior to an attack, I experienced what is described in a lot of literature about panic and anxiety as a ‘feeling of impending doom’ – the sensation that something awful was about to happen – which was horrible and it made me feel as if I was going mad. I started looking at alternative remedies which included homeopathy; acupuncture and Chinese medicine (I left a clinic in floods of tears once after being told in broken English that there was something very wrong with me and that I needed to spend over £200 on acupuncture and foul-tasting tea to fix it); and hypnotherapy. I went to the doctors again and was put on the NHS waiting list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Everyone told me I should just take deep breaths when I was suffering from an attack, but that didn’t help. The hypnotherapy seemed to work the best; after several hypnosis sessions and learning some ‘tapping’ techniques I felt fine and went for over six months without a panic attack, until I felt brave enough to go on holiday in 2007. At Heathrow, on the way to Warsaw, a fire alarm went off and the terminal was evacuated. I was unfortunate enough to be sat next to a melodramatic American lady at the time, who was convinced that she had heard an explosion before the alarm and was loudly telling everyone that it was a terrorist attack. It wasn’t of course, but half an hour later, in the departure lounge, I suddenly started to feel faint and for the first time since my panic attacks started I actually started to black out – I couldn’t see anything and I was absolutely convinced that my boyfriend (now husband) was going to have to call for help. It was the worst I’d experienced and I remember thinking that I hope I don’t get carted off by the men in white coats. Somehow, I got on the plane but the following week in Warsaw was not a relaxing holiday. My husband had to put up with this happening a lot; over the years we often had to leave places because I was having a panic attack. I remember him having to walk me out of Tesco’s on Western Avenue with me clinging to him and it was years before I could go back there. I hated busy places, crowds and the feeling that people were looking at me.

I finally got to the top of the waiting list for CBT and saw a therapist for three sessions. It seemed to work because over time the attacks seemed to lessen, as did the severity. I started practising yoga and continued to use the tapping techniques taught to me by the hypnotherapist when I did suffer from attacks, but the anxiety was always there in the background, stopping me from doing all sorts of things socially especially visiting my best mates in London as much as I would have liked (they would have to collect me from Paddington to chaperone me on the Tube and I would never go into Central London), but also practical things too, like learning to drive. The thought of being behind a wheel and suddenly feeling like I was going to faint scared the hell out of me.

Fast forward to 2011 and I was halfway through a leadership and management program at work, which was pretty brave of me at the time looking back, but I had started to realise that I wanted more out of life and my career was the first thing I wanted to change – for years I’d worked in jobs that were a means to an end and I had a feeling that if I didn’t do something I would be stuck like that forever. One of the modules of the program was a presentation skills course; Sing and Inspire were brought in for the day, to teach us how to project our voices and our confidence when presenting to an audience. I was in your group for the first session and one of the first things you did was to teach us how to breath diaphragmatically, to slow our heartbeat down and therefore calm any nerves when presenting or performing. This completely overwhelmed me and by the end of the session I was in the loos having a bit of a cry because I’d realised that what you were doing was simply teaching us to breathe – something that people had always told me to do when I was suffering from a panic attack but until that day, I never knew how to!

George’s session followed and she took us through a ‘grounding’ exercise to give us confidence, which involved closing our eyes and taking ourselves back to a memory of when we felt really confident and happy. My mind automatically took me back nearly ten years and again I was overwhelmed as I realised that it was such a long time since I had felt truly happy or confident. That day, you and George gave me a light bulb moment, which went round in my head for months afterwards. Looking back, that day was a key turning point in my life. The positive energy and confidence you both exuded and shared with us inspired me to find the confident old Louise, who it seemed had been hiding inside for years. What a wake up call!

In January 2012 I decided that it was going to be a year of change for me. I booked a load of driving lessons, signed up for a series of yoga workshops designed to get back to ‘the real me’ and made a promise to myself that I was going to get involved in something creative (the thing that I always procrastinated about – I love music and writing but never spent any time developing either). A few months later, I receive an email about the launch of SUPERCHOIR and immediately signed up to attend the first session in March. I went along, absolutely terrified; I spend a lot of time singing my heart out in the safety of my home but I had never sung in front of a group of people before and walking into a roomful of complete strangers was something I absolutely dreaded. A few years before I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea. I absolutely loved the choir session. The energy and atmosphere Patrick created was amazing – just like when you and George did the training session the year before – and I couldn’t wait for the next one. It wasn’t long before our first gig and during the last rehearsal before it, I suddenly started to get anxious mid-song as it dawned on me that we would be soon performing in front of a crowd. I started to have a panic attack (nobody noticed, thank goodness, which is often the case!) and I worried afterwards that I wouldn’t cope during the gig. That was the last panic attack I have suffered from to date! I forced myself to turn up for the gig and it turned out to be fantastic fun. I realised that if I can get up and sing in front of a room full of strangers, I can do anything I set my mind to.

I’ve since used the techniques you and George taught me many times, when delivering training to large groups of people at work, or presenting to senior management. I use them before choir gigs too.

Since I joined SUPERCHOIR I’ve: walked down the aisle with a crowd of people watching me; passed my driving test; got over my Tube fear and travelled alone in London; started networking with some really cool and inspiring people in Cardiff; and I’ve just made a rather exciting career leap – I started a new job this week in Marketing Communications and I’m thinking about setting up my own business long-term.

As I’m typing this, I’ve actually got tears steaming down my face as I realise: a) how unwell I was; b) how far I’ve come in the last few years; and b) how grateful I am that I met you and George, and that you two and Sing and Inspire are still in my life, nearly two years on. I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me and you were just doing your day job! What Sing and Inspire does is change peoples lives. It is a wonderful, powerful thing and I know that you will change the lives of hundreds more people, which is such a lovely thing to know!

Singing with the other SUPERCHOIR members has given me a great sense of musical belonging – it’s like being in a band only on a much larger scale! When we learn new songs we help each other out with the words and harmonies; there’s an over-arching positivity and kindness to the sessions, which encourages me to sing better but has also taught me to listen to everyone else. I’ve become much more confident about my voice over the past year and I’m less scared to try things out vocally. When I leave at the end of the session, I sing my head off all the way home in the car, then bounce through the front door like a bundle of energy. I’m usually still singing at work the next day – it doesn’t wear off overnight! I’ve always wanted to sing and now I’m actually doing it.

I completely forgot to mention the amazing friends I’ve made through Sing and Inspire and how, over a year after joining, SUPERCHOIR remains a huge part of my life. No matter how tired I am after work on a Wednesday I drag myself down the Bay, knowing that once I’ve been to choir I’ll be in a brilliant mood with loads of energy and this is true every single time.”

Thank you so SO much to Louise for being the debut story posted on ‘its all about the voice”. Lou – you are so full of courage and strength, your story brought tears to my eyes. you truly are an inspiration to know. Also as an aside, I feel I should say that if you met Lou – you’d truly have no idea just how powerful her journey has been over the past few years, it just goes to show how amazing life can become when you meet the right catalysts and refuse to accept your situation.

I think it’s summed up perfectly in the following Walt Disney quote which I’ll leave you with………look out for the next 2 stories which will be posted by the end of the week…

walt disney courage quote

I forgot to add this last week – here’s the link for Superchoir if you’re in South Wales…

.http://singandinspire.com/what-we-do/superchoir/

@SUPERCHOIR

https://www.facebook.com/superchoirsuk

 

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and…….another update! just found this gorgeous pic of Lou on her twitter profile – and she is a very beautiful lady I’m sure you’ll agree!

Compelled to sing…

I’m so happy that lots of you are getting involved with sending in your stories about your experiences with singing. Please keep sending them. I’ll be emailing out templates for you stories this week so keep an eye out in your inboxes for an email from me.

I thought I’d share this story with you about a beautiful old gent I’ve met called Neville.

Neville is 85 years young and is compelled to sing. He sings ALL the time with the most amazing untrained bass baritone voice! I usually see him in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket singing very loudly while perusing the isles or packing his shopping.

Each time I see him my heart bursts with fondness and emotion. Last time I spoke to him I agreed to help him ‘sing with some instruments’ before he dies. Which I though was so humble of him.

Anyway, Neville has the most wonderful energy which I hope you might pick up on this youtube film, so enjoy….and remember that finding ones voice nearly always results in personal happiness!

Here’s the you tube link for you to experience Neville!
http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=related&v=-IrrQ_GCKwE

And one here that shows him in action…..
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YnGH9t5_MWk&feature=fvwrel

I’m afraid I haven’t worked out how to upload videos in wordpress yet, but I hope you feel compelled to press the link…..I ll post out the links on twitter too.

Until next time…..

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Breakthoughs!

find song

Sometimes I’m reminded what a big deal it is for some people to open their mouths and sing!

I forget because I’ve been singing for most of my life, and because I learnt to sing as a child, my ‘nerves’ or fears were trained into usable performance technique. Nerves are good because we can use the adrenaline created in our body to perform well and focus. That ‘fight or flight’ feeling we experience when we are feeling vulnerable can enrich us as individuals and help us grow if we stay and perform, or simply sing in front of someone else rather than bottle it – and decide not to.

I realised this week though that some established singers who may have gone through a difficult emotional time for a myriad of reasons in their lives may find it hard to sing again. Let alone brand new singers.

I have 2 clients at the moment who have just experienced their ‘breakthroughs’ and started to sing again (with a lot of coaxing and a lot of fear) following a transitional period in their emotional lives. Both of these amazing people knew that if they started singing again they would start to heal…..and that can be scary if you’ve been used to a set of feelings for a long time.
Usually, these breakthroughs come with tears and some kind of shift in mindset or appreciation of circumstance or self and they can be very intense, personal moments for people whose identity has a connection with ‘being a singer’.
One of my chapters in the book will be about identity and how we relate both our speaking and singing voice to that…..incidentally our identities can be linked to anything we resonate with, but for the purpose of this project, “it’s all about the voice”. (see what I did there!)

When I was 20 I lost my voice for nearly a year – I literally had to learn to speak again with speech therapy. This gave me the foundation for my knowledge (and passion) for vocal health as I learnt first-hand just how amazing the larynx is and how our bodies can repair themselves. I also learnt fairly quickly and harshly how much of my identity was wrapped up in my voice. ‘Being a singer’, ‘Andrea the singer’, ‘the girl who can sing’ and suddenly I couldn’t fulfill that competency! It was a very confusing and somewhat grounding time for me, even at that young age, to have to realise who I was without addressing myself as a singer first and foremost.

I regained my voice and my confidence later that year, and the insight it gave me helps me somewhat to have empathy for those who are fearful of using/finding/expressing their voices for emotional reasons.
I’m really grateful for that experience and to be able to serve others with it, however painful it was at the time.
Identifying ourselves as singers is really interesting as I usually find that in coaching its important to get to the root of who we ARE as human BEings not what we DO as human DOings. (a cliché I know but so common!) Sometimes, people can’t distinguish if who they are is a singer (as a calling and talent) or what they do is sing.

What I say is it’s the finding of your voice regardless of whether you’re singing or speaking that matters. The vibrational energy of creating sound is incredible in our welfare, our healing and our ability to express ourselves.

so with that…..I’m looking forward to hearing your stories of how you found your voice…whether you lost it, then found it again or found it for the 1st time, please get in touch.

until then……keep a song in your heart, and remember sometimes we just need to keep calm and sing! 🙂

keep calm and sing<a

And so it begins……

allaboutthevoice

and so it begins……

and so here I am……

and it’s time…….

I find myself finally starting it – not talking about it but doing it….and it’s all for good!

About 5 years ago I had an idea for a book! I bought the domain name, talked to some people and decided to do it! Like many, many things in my creative entrepreneurial life I started something and let it slide……

The universe likes action. People like stories and I have a burning desire which is finally burning deep enough that it can’t sit on a shelf anymore. I have to write this book.

I renewed that domain when the renewals came round……and then let it go last year. I thought “I’m not a writer, I write music not books” and I thought, “I’m too busy with the business, with the wedding, with all my other excuses”

Then last week, I had the green light. I checked and couldn’t believe that the domain hadn’t been bought up. It was still there resonating with me…..”Buy me, buy me – get of your backside and do this! You can do it!” And so I bought it – again! And here I am.

Those of you who know me know that I’ve seen literally hundreds of people one on one as a singing teacher and music industry voice coach over the past 19 years (yes that long!). I’ve seen people cry for fear of singing their 1st note, I’ve watched people tremble with fear and lose their breath for fear of singing in front of someone and I’ve held the hand of every single one of those people who went on the journey of finding their voice. I’ve also had the privilege and pleasure of seeing so many talented people find confidence, become assertive, make positive choices, open their eyes to their possibilities and chase their dreams.

My teaching style is intrusive, as is my coaching style – I used to apologise for it but now I realise that part of my journey is to be a ‘Barnabus’, an ‘encourager’, an enabler of confidence and my passion for helping and coaxing people to reach their next chapter has many times defined my own self-worth. I understand now that looking back over the years I was honing the skill of being an inspirer.

At the heart of my life lies the voice – everything I’ve done has pretty much been about singing or talking and my voice has paid my mortgage for a very long time. My ethical, spiritual and moral background has given me a grounding that relationships and people are paramount to our existence and happiness.

I’ve always given…I’ve always given my time, always given my energy, always given hospitality, expertise, creativity, an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on and for the most part my house is an open house for people in need. My ‘give’ has served me well in life – regardless of some criticism I may have had over the years – “put yourself first”, “look after yourself”. I know now that taking care of me, recharging my batteries, eating good food, sleeping and allowing myself to grow means I can be much more effective with other people. Peak performance features a lot in my daily life, and in my vast experience, when you combine the ingredients of a can do attitude, possibility and singing? Watch out, because something very wonderful happens.

I set up the amazing Sing & Inspire with my business partner and friend Georgina Jones in 2008. Since then I’ve continued to coach, mentor and teach but I’ve also watched literally hundreds of people involved in our choirs transform, feel better and change their lives in a positive way. We set up the company because we knew that the transformational method of voice coaching I had been practicing for nearly a decade could be taken to business – in a positive way, and get results.

For about 5 years now, I’ve been collecting people who will share their inspirational stories. Their fights and fears. Their happiness and success. Their tears of frustration and their tears of joy. I have reduced the people from my teaching list to around 75 people since 2002 who have agreed to give me their stories….I think a few will end up in the book….and I’m offering anyone from any Inspire Choirs to share their stories too.

You see – I know that the journey we start on when we start singing regularly, or we learn to sing, or we unlock our voice…. can be and is life changing.

It really is “all about the voice!”

If you want to share your story and have been involved with me or Sing & Inspire please email me on andrea@singandinspire.com. Your story can feature on here and may end up in the book……

I can’t promise how many will end up in the final edit, but I can tell you that every single person who shares their story will be inspiring others in ways unimaginable.

Until next time….keep singing your song!

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