Music: Detaching Singing from Performance

I love Music and singing. For me they are as essential and as natural as breathing.

As with breathing, the quality of my music, and the quality of my relationship with Music, has been subject to constant change and evolution.

As a child I would often sing and hum quietly to myself simply as a form of gentle expression when I was feeling content. This was a perfectly natural and uninhibited thing for me to accompany any playful activity in which I was engaged.

I merely sang with my own, unaffected, innate voice. It was simply a part of who I was and I never questioned it.

Later I learned that singing was also to be used to praise God in church, as well as to perform for others and receive their adulation and accolades or, if the performance did not meet their expectations, to receive their censure.

With this new reason for singing there also arose the issues of how to mould my voice to fit in with a choral group, a musical genre and the intended audience. My ‘church’ voice had different qualities to my ‘I want to be a singer when I grow up’ voice. My body moved differently in each context, my clothing was different and my persona varied. I was a trainee angel of compliance in church, an aspiring pop star with my friends, and when trialling for various choral groups, I would do whatever was required to pass the audition.

This pattern became the fixed singing template for my life as a vocalist and I have had several decades singing many musical genres in a variety of configurations, from soloist to choral group, harmony ensembles, a rock band and a classical quartet.

What each had in common, however, was the need to receive an accolade from my listeners that my singing voice sounded lovely, beautiful, pleasing and that my voice fitted in with what that genre or group expected.

This was a far cry from the little girl who sang because singing was simply part of her. So, I stopped performing and waited to see what would unfold. Three or so years ago I felt inspired to start singing again after hearing Michael Benhayon’s Glorious Music albums.

This time, however, I was singing just for me, only when I felt to sing, and whatever glorious song I felt to sing.

What occurred during this time was truly delight-full. People responded to me with great wonder when they chanced to hear me singing gently to, and for, myself in many everyday situations.

  • Singing while shopping at my local supermarket, a lady approached me saying: “Thank you for your singing. Why does no one ever just sing anymore?” I could hear in her voice that she was puzzled by this and had missed hearing people just singing as they go about their day.
  • While singing in the bulkfood section of my local healthfood shop, I saw a lady wandering around, staring up at the ceiling. She saw me and explained that she was trying to locate the source of the heavenly sound and had then realised it was me. She took me to the storeowner and asked them to record my voice and play it all day long in their shop.
  • While getting out of my car in a basement car park under a prestigious Gold Coast resort hotel, I was stopped by two ladies who were similarly looking around in wonderment for the “beautiful sound echoing through the car park.”
  • Stepping out of my car in front of the beauty therapist’s on the Sunshine Coast, a lady stopped her purposeful walk to work and stood perfectly still exclaiming, “Wow! That sound is incredibly beautiful. Why aren’t you on the stage?”
  • A favourite comment from a work colleague during a singing dry spell: “Please start singing again. It doesn’t feel right here when you don’t sing.”

I did not respond to these confirmations as accolades because my voice already felt lovely… to me! I simply thanked them and shared with them whatever I had been singing about.

I share this not to show that I have a beautiful voice that people love. It is to share how, my singing glorious music for myself as a natural expression of how I am feeling at that time, has a deeply profound effect on so many people. And yet I sing because I sing – because it is part of who I am. It is the same quality I used to have as a child that I feel people are hearing in my voice. They are hearing a woman connected with herself: lovely, gorgeous, content.

No need for accolade, no need for a stage, no moulding, no applause. I am simply just being me, singing about who we are and where we are from.

Is it possible that this is what singing is in its most natural form?

So, I have learned to detach my singing from performance and the effects have been exquisite.

Will I ever sing on stage again? Yes, I will take this natural quality of self connection to my ‘performance’… which won’t be a performance, but rather a sharing of who I am and who we all are.

Music and singing have become for me, once again, as natural and lovely as breathing.

Inspired by my connection to me and by Michael Benhayon’s Glorious Music albums.

Dedicated to my Dad, William Hensey, who made sure my childhood home was filled with music, song and dance.

By Coleen Hensey
My Relationship with Music: It’s about Connection not Perfection
Exploring, and Singing with, my True Voice

1,199 thoughts on “Music: Detaching Singing from Performance

  1. How many books do we have in this world? Into how many complex subjects do we delve? How many PHD thesis are there out there? And yet it seems there are some very basic parts where our learning is bare. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s a fact isn’t it, that so many of us could do with a refresher course on moving, or reading ‘breathing for dummies’. How crazy is this?! But beautiful too, for as you show here Colleen that when we choose true movement it comes out again with a natural ease that is like music to our ears.

  2. ‘Music and singing have become for me, once again, as natural and lovely as breathing.’ I was very much like you as a child Coleen and would chatter away with no reserve and sing to myself and not be shy about sharing my song with another, until I went to school. I have not regained that feeling of total freedom around singing but it is definitely coming back and I love how it feels. I am currently having sessions with Robbie Boyd which are not so much about ‘singing’ but allowing my own expression to come forth with music, deepening the qualities that I am presently most in touch with in myself. This is very supportive and nurtures that naturalness where harmony is found and the joy comes in to our expression and our song.

  3. Coleen what an amazing article as from my observation most people sing/perform to get a reaction and get the adoration from fans, yet as you said, perhaps it didn’t always start out this way – when we are kids we sing and play just for the joy of it. I agree lets bring this back.

  4. I can remember singing when I was a child and then joining a chapel choir in my teens which after a few years I gave up due to an illness. The last couple of years I have been asked to join a couple of choirs but said ‘No’ because they didn’t feel right. Out of nowhere usually in my kitchen I can come up with a tune and some words and for now I am happy with that… we don’t have to perform to enjoy the natural, beautiful voice that we have.

  5. I am blessed to live with someone who sings a lot – in the shower, when putting away the vacuuming or playing with lego…any occasion is worthy of song. The singing has such a joy in it and that joy fills the house. If I were to try and direct the singing, control it or make it this or that, I have no doubt that joy would slowly disappear. It’s a pure expression of what is felt in the singer’s body and it is expressed freely – that is what is so joyful about it.

  6. That’s beautifully said Collen, ‘I will take this natural quality of self connection to my ‘performance’… which won’t be a performance, but rather a sharing of who I am and who we all are’, all is a sharing of our connection within.

  7. ‘I was a trainee angel of compliance in church, an aspiring pop star with my friends, and when trialling for various choral groups, I would do whatever was required to pass the audition’ Sounds like you had a lot of aliases Coleen but sadly in none of them you were able to be fully yourself.

  8. This pattern of molding and squeezing ourselves to suit the situation is so harmful to our body and wellbeing. We are so constantly reshaping our natural way to fit into the square, oval, hexagonal etc. holes, that we lose sight of our original shape. To move and express yourself in your natural way is one of the loveliest things to feel. We miss this deeply as it is something we have been denying ourselves since we learnt to conform.

  9. It’s interesting how we can push and pull ourselves into so many different identities to fit in and yet none of them share the true authenticity of who we are and also leave us struggling to feel and appreciate the true joy and flow of our natural way of being. Re-connecting to the playfulness and flow of our movements reminds us of how we were when we were children and takes the stress and hardness from trying to fit into all the identities we have accumulated over the years. Returning to our inner heart connection, reminds us of the flow and rhythm of life and the harmony and vitality we always knew returns with ease.

  10. ‘Music and singing have become for me, once again, as natural and lovely as breathing.’ Beautiful Colleen, just as anything else we do in life, music and singing is simply another expression.

  11. Without awareness there is frequently an arrogance that accompanies the movements of someone who sings on stage, it is like wearing a protective armour. Wearing anything hard like this I could only imagine it is so vulnerable that it does not allow any true feelings or expressions to enter or be received. So it is like a self-created prison in an ivory tower.

  12. Sound and music communicates a lot more than just ‘sound’ or a catchy tune, this we have yet to realise let alone value as a society…

  13. It’s crazy how we have got to thinking of singing as such a big deal, like we are a performer on stage in front of millions. The truth is we all play our part and contribute to the symphony of life with our every thought and move. It’s down to us as you show Coleen to just let what we have out without worrying that we might hit a bum note.

  14. I am currently having singing lessons and the teacher shared the other day that she would like everyone to perform a song to the other students. Just hearing the word ‘perform’ I felt myself step aside for a moment internally as if to fully comprehend what she had said. I realised that that word held a lot of mixed feelings, nuances and the potential for anxiety within me. It was great to catch it and I repeated the word quizzically. The teacher then said that that was what it was all about. I realised in that instant that it was about me continuing to be me regardless and to bring all of me to the moment, as in every moment. I realised the responsibility I held to be a reflection for others but that that was no more or less than the reflection I bring every day. It was lovely to feel so much at home with myself and the commitment within to live allowing this unfolding of my true nature moment by moment.

  15. When we sing in connection to our bodies, the sound that flows is naturally a reflection from heaven, deeply healing for those receiving it and at the same time regenerative for our soul.

  16. I found my voice again last week. I was not singing for some years even though I did before a lot. I even gave singing workshops. Then one man told me that my singing was not aligned with God and even I knew it was a lie I just didn’t sing anymore.
    I took one lesson with a woman who is a amazing singer with a beautiful divine connection and the first notes I had tears. I was not even aware that there was still a hurt about this. Then I opened up all the way and ancient sounds came out of me. I am back in full more and more.

  17. The more I allow myself to sing from the connection to my body first, the more singing becomes innately something that I just do. I was at a wedding recently, and someone was on stage singing to the guests. I was just singing quietly along, with a few harmonies here and there that were just coming from my body with no thought about what I would sing. Just a natural expression of me and how I love to share that with others, that was also appreciated by those around me in that moment.

  18. Goodness I smiled as I read the response you had when you sang for yourself in public. Our expression is many and varied, yet when we express without needing anything in return we express the love of God. No attachment, simply to express ourselves in full. We will each have an expression that is offering a slightly different angle, even if 4 of us were singers the expression would be slightly different. It is not necessary to be on stage or get comments or adulation, but it is necessary to express it, because without each expression in its fullness, the world misses out.

  19. I never sung because I thought I couldn’t sing. Lately I’ve noticed that I sing regularly and how joyful it feels. The focus shifted from what I sounded like to what it felt like. And interestingly, I think I sound pretty good 🙂

  20. It is a beautiful thing, to allow ourselves to sing from a true connection to who we are and to then share it with others simply because it is such a joy to do so. It takes away any ‘need of perfection or performance’ which is so often associated with singing and music.

  21. Thank you for sharing Coleen, I have noticed that we don’t sing any more as we work. When I was growing up I would hear the window cleaner sing to him self or the postman. People seemed to be more engaged in life, something has happened because now everyone seems too busy and the natural sparkle that I remember growing up has left us.

    1. I agree Mary, I remember the milkman used to whistle or sing as he went about his morning – a couple of years ago I read a news article which said that there had been complaints about a singing milkman, and that he was requested to stop because he was bothering people too early in the morning. When I was younger listening to the milkman go about his business was part of our day, and a welcomed one, but these days it is a rarity to hear people singing, whistling or even humming (unless they have headphones on).

  22. ‘They are hearing a woman connected with herself: lovely, gorgeous, content.’ And that sums it up when there’s no demand or accolades required, when it’s just that beautiful natural expression, it’s just amazing to feel someone singing or even just being themselves in any way, for that’s what comes first the being themselves and everything that flows from there is just magic. Gorgeous sharing Coleen, thank you.

  23. I can feel reading this that your singing is a confirmation of the connection you have with yourself, nothing more, nothing less. That’s beautifull.

  24. Recently we had a team of guys putting up a couple of marquees in the garden, and they worked really well as a team together, they each knew their part and moved effortlessly to the next stage, what I found most interesting was not only their team work, but how they were all singing together, and really enjoying it having fun, they didn’t have great musical voices but the fact that they were just being themselves made it all the easier to feel the joy they were expressing and feeling too.

  25. It’s very freeing to not feel the need to receive an accolade, return or recognition from another but just be open to expressing what you feel is true, and with that hold another in the grace of your love, without imposing on them to respond in a set way…

  26. It’s beautiful to come back to this blog. Like hearing a song that you love, suddenly come on the radio, your words Coleen remind me there’s a standard of how I move, express, talk and sing, that always deserves to be sweet. The shut down, abrupt, nice and angry tones I have used in the past have no place in my life – it’s just up to me to make my everyday tune one of harmony not bum notes.

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