Why Stone Singing Is Good For Your Soul

My very first paid singing job was for the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC. I was not a trained singer, I was new as new can be.

How did it happen?

A member of the National Cathedral clergy found me singing in St. Joseph Chapel one day and stopped to listen.

“What are you singing?” she asked.

I said, “It’s not a song on paper, I’m making it up as I go.”

She paused. I didn’t know how to read her silence.

At last she said,“You should speak to someone around here about singing for us.”‘

She mentioned the person to contact. “Please use my name when you call her. In the meantime, I’ll put in a good word for you.”

After an informal audition, I was hired to sing Improvisational singing prayer for Ember Day, which is a day of silence or singing, no speaking.

They requested improvisational singing prayer based on the New Zealand Prayer book version of the Lord’s Prayer, which is really beautiful and quite different from the King James version. You could say it’s in the direction of the Aramaic interpretation.

On that Ember Day, the Cathedral was closed to the public. Those who signed up for the experience were allowed to explore the space freely, as well as attend singing events in the various downstairs chapels. We also ate a silent meal together.

The Experience of Stone Singing

For me, there is nothing more beautiful than experiencing improvisational singing prayer in the Washington National Cathedral. Surrounded by the support of stone walls, a little effort goes a long way, allowing a singer to enter a meditative zone that only stone can provide.

The natural reverb encourages (actually insists) that sounds made follow the way of stone, that sound movement be slow and steady, not clever and quick, which invites the heart to sing, not the head.

Improvisational singing prayer is, by nature, meditative.

Recently

In Washington, DC a couple weeks ago, I visited the Cathedral and returned to the chapels where I had practiced regularly and where I sang for Ember Day. I had not been back for many years.

Besides the chapels, there is a secret place by the choir room where I sang regularly, because I could close the very tall door (the kind you’d imagine a castle would have) and be invisible. When a walking tour came through, they could hear me, but not see me. On occasion, I could hear them commenting on my song, or inquiring where the sound of my song was coming from.

On this recent visit, I sang for my Mom in that secret place by the choir room. There are no chairs, so we made a pillow for her and she actually laid down on the stone floor to enjoy the sound fully with her eyes closed.

The Past

I lived in DC for a number of years when my daughter was young, and visited the Cathedral regularly to walk the lower chapels and sing.

One day, the Cathedral was especially empty, so I sang in a hallway alone for a long time before hearing footsteps from far away. I continued to sing as the person approached.

It turns out the footsteps belonged to someone with the title “The Very Reverend” who said, “I walked a long way down this hall to see where this beautiful sound was coming from. I hope you will always continue to sing this way. Please never stop.”

After he left, yes, I wept quietly, happily. If you know me, you’ll say, “Of course she did…”

I have always remembered his kind words.

I’ve walked the Cathedral and the surrounding property and sung in the Cathedral for more hours than I can count, which means I’ve been held by the peaceful presence of its stone walls for days or months, I’m not sure. What I know, though, from singing in the serenity of a stone chapel is that there is nothing like it.

Improvisational singing prayer in a resonant space is the most calming practice I know and I miss it. If I could, I would sing that way every day.

Oh, I sing at home, for sure, and sometimes in meditation I visit the National Cathedral. Because I know it so well, it’s easy to be there in my imagination. I’ve also sought out other resonant places, including Mission San Juan Capistrano (Dana Pt, California), Cathedrals in and around Paris and a certain hundred year old chapel in Italy near Perugia on a bed and breakfast property known as Locanda del Gallo.

But for me, nothing quite matches the feeling of being with the walls, tall ceilings, history and feel of the Washington National Cathedral. For some reason, the National Cathedral feels like home to me, even though I’m a Quaker who attended silent Meeting growing up — all silence, no singing and very little speaking.

Go figure.

Terri’s book of photography combined with poetry is here! 100 Words: Small Servings of Whimsy and Wisdom to Calm the Mind and Nourish the Heart.

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Terri Crosby

Helping you create life-affirming, ever-evolving, happier relationships with those you love. Follow me on twitter at@TerriCrosby or read myblog.

Comments (12)

  • Avatar

    Shelley Glinsky

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    I’d love to hear you sing live sometime, Terri.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Terri Crosby

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      We’ll have to work that out! That would be fun.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Jeanne

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    What a beautiful and amazing recollection. I have heard you in choir with others, I do not believe I have heard you sing alone. It sounds like it would be pretty amazing.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Terri Crosby

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      Thank you, Jeanne! Blessings right back to you.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Devaya

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    I cried as I read this 🙂

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Keldwyn Teves

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    Dearest Terri,
    I didn’t know you are a birthright Quaker. I am a member of Swannanoa Friends Meeting. There is vocal ministry, and your singing would be welcomed! We have members who sing. I know you are rooted in Unity, but just wanted to invite you. I haven’t been able to go since my broken leg; and I still feel like I am there “in Spirit” many Sunday mornings.
    With Love for you my sweet f/Friend
    Keldwyn

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Terri Crosby

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      Yes, birthright I am… Thanks for your invitation to Swannanoa Meeting. You’re a pretty good distance from me, but I’d love to visit.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Keldwyn Teves

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    PS. I KNOW how wondrous your voice is in a good vibrational place since weeping as you sang in the resonant place we visited many many years ago. Your voice is a gift to all of Creation.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Terri Crosby

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      Thank you, Keldwyn, very kind comment. Loved singing with you that day!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Kate

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    I love closing my eyes and seeing and hearing you there.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Terri Crosby

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      Thank you, Kate. The comments you make go straight to my heart. I so appreciate you and what you feel and say.

      Reply

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Rise Up by Andra Day

What a great set of words for these oncoming days.

Rise Up

 
You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can’t find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you
For you
For you
For you
When the silence isn’t quiet
And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
Bring it to its feet
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you
For you
For you
For you
All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other
And for that we have each other
And we will rise
We will rise
We’ll rise, oh, oh
We’ll rise
I’ll rise up
Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousand times again
And we’ll rise up
High like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up
And we’ll do it a thousand times again
For you
For you
For you
For you
Ah, ah, ah, ah
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Cassandra Monique Batie / Jennifer Decilveo
Rise Up lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Terri’s book of photography combined with poetry is here! 100 Words: Small Servings of Whimsy and Wisdom to Calm the Mind and Nourish the Heart.

Read more

Rippling Abs, Anyone?

Rippling Abs, Anyone?

During this strange time in history, I noticed y’all were tackling all sorts of interesting projects. I decided I needed one, too—something positive to remember the pandemic of 2020 by.
 
I decided to pay attention to something I had abandoned…
 
Nope, I’m not cleaning my garage. I am not organizing one single thing. I’m not planting a garden or cleaning up my yard.
 
Instead, I decided to take care of myself better. This, folks, has made all the difference for me.
 
With relatively little time and effort on my part, I feel so much better than I did a month ago.
 
On March 30, I got on the exercise bike and the yoga mat for the first time in a long time, and did 30 minutes each. I liked it so much that I decided to do it every day. But I fell short of that, and changed my commitment to every other day, which felt more manageable, reasonable, and doable.
 
I also get off the bike after every song, take a couple of sips of water, shake out my legs and arms for a few seconds, and get back on. This makes the bike project a reasonable proposition, too.
 
Daily walks of any length—by myself, or with my little guy, Jackson—are a fresh air bonus.
 
My recumbent exercise bike has pulleys to work my upper body while I pedal, which gets my heart rate up fast, and also helps my whole-body strength. It feels good to get up from writing, or doing a consulting session with a client, to do something physically challenging while listening to good music.
 
After only a month, I feel a sheet of muscles on the front of me I haven’t felt for a very, very long time. Goodness gracious. Who knew they were there. I’ll be posting rippling ab photos soon, I’m sure.
 
I have no idea what the scales have to say about my bike/yoga project—I don’t care. Paying attention to scales tends to send me sideways, and therefore, I’m ignoring them completely.
 
But—I LOVE the way I feel! Hang in there, everyone.
 

Terri’s book of photography combined with poetry is here! 100 Words: Small Servings of Whimsy and Wisdom to Calm the Mind and Nourish the Heart.

Read more

Check Out This Troublemaker in Relationships

Check Out This Troublemaker in Relationships

Sometimes we ask intimate partners to do for us what is actually ours to do.

We ask our partner to give us the reassurance, love or appreciation we feel is missing in ourselves, with the hope that they will give us what we’re asking for—and then we’ll feel better. They’ll take care of our problem.

But when they do give us what we’re asking for, it can never be enough, because we have insufficient context for what they’ve given. We haven’t build the inner foundation to receive it, hear it, welcome it, believe it. They try to help, but their love for us falls into our void, our black hole, our love bucket with no bottom.

As always, there’s hope. Check out the video below.

Terri Crosby. http://www.incareofrelationships.com/.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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Terri Crosby

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