If you’d invited me to sing five years ago I would have laughed in your face. I would have joked that I couldn’t sing because I had to protect your ears from the horror of my voice. If the conversation progressed I probably would have joked again at my own expense, about the monster who told little Merri that she couldn’t sing.  

The journey of the Hobart VoiceLab: Queer+Allies has been truly liberating. I discovered that I, like many Queer people of colour, suffer from internalised homophobia, racism etc. I was a deeply closeted person until I was 49 because I grew up Mormon under the White Australia policy where to be different meant prison or worse for someone like me. So I played it straight, according to the rules of the land and the gatekeepers who decided what was and wasn’t ‘acceptable’. 

The VoiceLab is not a Choir. Choirs meet for the sole purpose of rehearsing to perform for other people, to receive extrinsic validation, to be deemed ‘acceptable’ according to the rules upheld by the gatekeepers. The VoiceLab helped me reveal my ‘authentic’ voice for intrinsic validation, to know and accept myself. During our gatherings I shared my voice with wonderful people and was overwhelmed by the joy I felt at hearing or ‘listening’ to my own voice and the awe inspiring sound we co-create as a group.  

This experience has inspired artworks for the ‘The Yearning’ exhibition (MAC) in June and the ‘Kairos’ exhibition at the Rosny Barn from 28 July to 20 August. ‘Kairos’ or kairological time refers to moments that repeat – a birthday, a full moon, breakfast etc. ‘Chronos’ refers to chronological or sequential time which is relentless and unconscious. Conversely, ‘Kairos’ offers us the opportunity for reflection, a conscious moment to take joy in ‘listening’ to ourselves, celebrate our diversity and live our lives our way. www.merrirandell.com 

What is music? What is singing? by Hugo Pieri 

What happens to us when we make sounds? How can we associate music and pleasure? These are the questions that have guided me over the last few years and led me to search for simple gestures that allow people to feel their bodies while they sing and explore their voices as a tool to experience pleasure, connection, and of course, beauty and bliss. 

As a friend said to me once, “A choir is a very traditional institution … “ He was right! I didn’t want to create a new choir. Not even one that would sing songs that celebrate our diversity. I wanted to offer a space where I could invite people TO BE songs, to experience their different sound bodies and to merge in ONE beautiful sea of sound  that doesn’t judge or criticize. 

Music can have many different meanings for different cultures around the globe at different times. For the VoiceLab, it has been an embodied practice that connects us with our authentic vibration and the mystery that unites us in our diversity. It’s fun, beautiful and we love it. https://www.facebook.com/groups/voicelabqueerallies 


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