What is Improv Circle Singing

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Circle Singing is a vocal improvisational technique in which singers adopt text-less, melodic and rhythmic chants that are layered over one another in a seamless whole. Singing tones without words frees the mind from expectations or preconceptions building an exhilarating creativity unique to the moment.

Circle Singing typically begins with one person offering a simple revolving lines that is repeated. Additional lines are layered over the first, creating harmonies and counter-melodies. The sum of the parts often results in beautifully inter-woven songs and complex rhythms. One of the most enjoyable aspects of circle singing is the creativity which emerges spontaneously.
— Tomme Maile - Trybal Revival

This clip is from a benefit event titled “Life As Improv - The Sweet Spot At The  Aquatorium” - June 6th, 2010 combining the efforts of Circle Singers from Kalamazoo, Michigan and Northwest Indiana and Dancers from the South Shore Dance Alliance

What evolves is not intended to be duplicated.  Working outside structured boundaries allows individual expression, spontaneity and experimentation which creates a different experience each time.

Like any improv sometimes things work brilliantly - sometimes, not so much - but for me it is like Life.  We all have stunning moments when what we have surrendered to moves through us in a stream of consciousness that shines through.  We also have those less than generous - less than connected moments when we seem to falter and stumble.  Circle Singing in and of itself brings people together in community allowing both aspects - or rather - many aspects of ourselves to be expressed.  Each person has the opportunity to be part of the whole and individual at the same time....

This is such an ancient way for humans to come together... in song.  Groups that sing together in this way find a way to be at peace with each other if only for the time that they are connect in song.

We are so used to performances being rehearsed and pre-arranged.  This is an opportunity for people to experience something wonderfully flawed from the beginning and wonderfully perfect whatever happens!!!

In this often offbeat contemporary life and time we live in, we sometimes find ourselves without a constructive way to give voice to all the joys and frustrations, challenges and successes that we experience.  As little children we sang because it just felt good to express our current reality in the most primal of ways.  We opened our mouths and let the sound come out about the spaghetti on our plate or the color of the sky.  We didn’t censor it or think of it as ‘not good enough’. 

On October 20, 2010 the Crown Point High School Choir students had their first public performance of completely improvised song.  Since I was without a voice that night they were on their own to create their own music and I am so honored and so happy for them and for the deeper creativity that this process awakens.... Enjoy!

Nowadays we tend to compare ourselves in a very unnatural way.  We think that if we don’t sound like someone from ‘American Idol’ or the latest musical flavor of the day, that we therefore cannot sing.   Maybe we were told that we didn’t have a good voice so we stopped singing and believed what we were told.  We learned that if we didn’t ‘measure up’ to the one that everyone thought was so wonderfully talented - that we should just be quiet and find something else to do with our creative energy.

So I invite you to re-think your voice.  No comparing - no self-deprecation.  There is no way to do it ‘wrong’.  We can always make a different choice.