Flailing in Sunnyvale: I’m a Pagan with no musical talent and no rhythm. I have a horrible singing voice, can’t keep a beat, and I’m a terrible dancer (part of that is physical, I’ve wrecked my knee on multiple occasions). At large group ritual there’s often no place for the musically challenged, and I’m not sure how to bow out of the singing and/or dancing without offending people. What should I do?
What should you do? I think you should wait in the car.
Kidding! Totally kidding there.
Public rituals, well good public rituals, are very participatory. As a celebrant you should be ready and willing to get up and do whatever the High Priestess wants the group to do.
(Now If you are mobility impaired, that’s another story, and the Ritual should have accommodations for you.)
But for you, Flail, no mercy. Get out there and get into it. As a celebrant your job is to celebrate – mine that ritual for all the juice and revelation that it can provide. If you are concerned that your lack of artistic abilities will affect your fellow participants, then minimize ‘em:
- Sing quietly, but thoughtfully. Remember it isn’t a concert, or a contest. The songs are there to take you someplace – dowhat you need to do to go on that journey. Find someone with your vocal range and try to do what they do. (You don’t have to be loud to go deep.)Hum. Find that one note that you CAN nail, and just do that when it comes around. Or just listen, if that takes you to the intended place.
- Most people have a lot more rhythm than they give themselves credit for. Really, if you have a working appendage and can count to four, you can be a drummer. If there is live drumming and you have a drum with you, then find the simplest pattern going on, and mimic it. If there is recorded music, find the backbeat (bounce around a bit and see where your body thinks it is) and just stick with that on your drum. In either case your musical contribution should be helping you to connect to the ritual,yourself, and/or the Gods. If you are having to think too much, then put your instrument down and just –
- Dance. Now you don’t have to be Fred Astaire or Shakira or Nureyev or in the cast of Riverdance to get something out of a ritual. If the script calls for free form movement, just move to the edge of the circle and see what the music calls for you to do. Spend some quality time with this: What does your body want to do here? The Twist? The hippie sun-grope? The Macarena? Vaguely bounce around the room? Listen to your innerself. Maybe you need to walk the perimeter of the circle in prayer. Or maybe you just to need to stand and kinda shimmy in place. It’s all good and there are no wrong answers here.
P.S. Afterwards, check out some lessons. A couple of small drum circles, a session with a vocal coach and an 8-week bellydance class will expand your world in amazing ways. (Yes, even on a bum knee!)
Send YOUR questions to firstname.lastname@example.org – and maybe you’ll see yourself in an upcoming column!