Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Highlighting Annie Zijlstra

The lovely Annie Zijlstra
So who is this Annie Zijlstra who will be leading our singing on Thursday evening? 
I had the opportunity to sing with her last summer in Powderhorn Park before she headed to Europa, which confirmed the welcoming and skilled presence she brings to community singing.  I started following her on Instagram (@zestinaferna) and discovered she's a forager, lover of the forest and other wild places, a chocolatier, and handy in many ways.  But who is she?  I decided it was time to ask her some questions...


PLM: Tell us about yourself. 
AZ: I grew up singing in the flat wind-humming prairie lands of northern Iowa. My voice was shaped by a childhood of abundant wide open spaces, a brand of hardiness acquired from the unrelenting sub-zero winters of the great plains, a whole load of family and teachers who never told me not to sing, and years of classical training grounded in an adulthood immersion in a grassroots, living culture of people who sing for the aliving of themselves and all of life in the places they call home. 

PLM: You talk about your role as a natural voice practitioner.  What does that mean to you? 
AZ: Currently based in the Wisconsin Driftless region, I lead two natural voice choirs in the aural tradition: an evening choir for mixed voices and a morning choir for women which welcomes the company of babies and young children. I also lead one-off workshops and community sings in other regions whenever I’m on the road. Play, authenticity, and sneaky spiritualism are at the center of my teaching style and make for a light entrance into the joy and vulnerability group singing can bring to people who haven’t yet used their voices much in this way.

(Here's a clip of Annie leading singing mamas in England earlier this spring)
AZ: In a shifting world fraught with failing systems and widespread cultural trauma, it is necessary to find meaningful ways to connect with one another. To me, singing is one of the most direct and basic ways to access our undeniable interconnectedness and the possibility of collective beauty making. Physically joining our voices into a single sound, be it unison or complex harmony, leaves no room for vague, theoretical concepts of changemaking! Rather, it is a direct action that brings us into immediate connection with each other and the world around us. It is the concept of “peace” made manifest; the idea of “community” brought to life in real time.

PLM: What was your first influential singing experience?
AZ: As someone who has been singing since before she could talk, it is challenging to pin down would be a first influential singing experience. However, what I do remember very clearly is being a child in music class and a teenager in choir after choir and feeling bored senseless by the whole experience! The process of practicing songs with music in front of me for the ends of one day performing it for an audience was totally uninteresting, even within the high caliber choirs I was a part of. Singing as an art really came alive for me when it moved from a practical, performance-centered activity to an experiential, heart-centered way of interacting with those around me. Putting on deranged improvised operas in the car with my mom, making ethereal harmony sounds in a friend’s cistern, and singing emotional Christian rock songs with friends at church camps were the doorway into the rich, experiential, connective singing world I am now a part of. 

PLM: Do you have a singing dream?
AZ: I dream of living in a world in which singing is a part of people’s daily lives in the places where they live. Songs are tools we can use to connect, grieve, create meaning, and make beauty and magic; and they want to be sung! I dream of a time when singing isn’t something that some people do, and others don’t do, but rather something which is part of being living, breathing, soundmaking humans in a living, breathing, soundmaking world. I dream of hundreds of ways for people to gather and make music, of options to suit every kind of want and need. These are not far-off fairytales. In fact, all of this is mostly underway already. All you need to do to be a part of it is find a song and sing it! Who knows who might join in.

Join us on Thursday evening, July 6, 7-8:30 p.m. at the East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul! 

We'll be collecting donations for our travelling song carrier and for the space.  Thank you, East Side Freedom Library! 

 (A final song to entice you to come)


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