the calming influence of a single song

 the calming influence of a single songLast week the CMVic blog received a comment from Castlemaine singing leader and champion of community music making, Jane Thompson. What Jane wrote was just too good to leave tagged on the end of another post, so we’ve turned it into a blog entry in its own right that we can share far and wide with you all. We hope you find it inspiring, too.

“I have been meaning to contact you to let you know about some singing that happened spontaneously recently … I may as well write something right now!! Here goes… I attended the Bendigo Magistrates Court recently to support a group of people who were arrested and charged with trespass, for peacefully protesting about asylum seeker children in detention. After repeatedly requesting a meeting or conversation with their local Senator to talk about this issue, and their calls, letters and emails never being answered, they decided to sit peacefully in her office until she agreed to talk with them. The court was packed, every seat was filled and quite a few of us were standing at the back and we were waiting for about three quarters of an hour for the magistrate to arrive and get started. It was quite noisy with everyone talking; those who had been charged were sitting quietly at the front, and standing in front of them was a group of about nine police officers, all uniformed and armed; they made quite an imposing presence; the people facing charges looked tense and stressed.

I suddenly thought it might be a good thing to start singing, and Polly Christie’s beautiful song ‘What is peace to you’ sprang to mind – so I started to sing quietly.

People nearby turned to look, and gradually a few joined in, then the court went completely silent apart from the singing. We sang softly for about five or ten minutes; I didn’t want to disturb the court proceedings in any way through singing, so stopped before the magistrate came in to start the session.

After we stopped the atmosphere in the court was quite different – it stayed quiet, and seemed much more peaceful. There was quite a lot of media coverage of the event, and apparently every report mentioned the singing – that ‘people were singing about calling for compassion’.

After considering the case, and hearing a statement from the group, the magistrate decided that all charges should be dropped. There was much relief all round. However, the group has still not been granted an opportunity to speak to the local Senator about the issue of children of asylum seekers, being held in detention. (The words for Polly’s song are ‘What is peace to you; we are calling compassion for all; ’cause everybody got a right to a safe home’ It’s in Short Stuff, that essential companion for singing leaders!). ”

What a great testimony to the positive power of song. Get in touch with Community Music Victoria if you have a story to celebrate, an insight, discovery or experience to share with other people passionate about strengthening society through music and we’ll make sure it gets seen. After all, that’s what this blog is about!

4 thoughts on “the calming influence of a single song”

  1. What a wonderful Example of the power of song! EVERY singing group in Australia should be encouraged to learn this song and sing it to all!


  2. This reminds me of singing Sara’s Song: “You can forbid nearly everything but you can’t forbid me to think, you can’t forbid my tears to flow and you can’t shut my mouth when I sing” written by Greenham Common Women. We sung it at court cases for Peace activists in the UK in the 1980’s. Singing is a powerful thing. no wonder it has always galvanised protest movements. Jane Coker


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