Since the pandemic Sing Portland has shifted from singing with 50 or more people in a room, to singing in groups no bigger than 20 on zoom.

We have been surprised how deeply we can still connect with each other on-line.  This fall we offered a new class: Vocal Freedom & Fearlessness in which singers get to expand their vocal palette through playful exercises and experimentation. I’d like to tell you a story about one of the singers.

Carmel had sung with Sing Portland for a few years. She writes:

“I’m in my element when I’m singing in a group. I’ve been doing it all my life. Big groups, small groups, from a chorus of 200 to a trio and everything in between. There’s nothing I love more than being in harmony with other voices. It’s the best therapy I know. Sharing and performing songs with an audience fills me up.”

In the class “Vocal Freedom & Fearlessness” singers explore and experiment with their voices along the five elements: earth, fire, water, air, metal. We take on various characters and soul qualities to sound grounded, flighty, fiery, sultry, piercing, or light as a feather. We sing the hills alive or whisper sweet nothings as we try on a variety of personalities.

Carmel took the class as she fears singing a solo more than public speaking, more than death itself!  She recognized that her “solo” fear was less about confidence in her singing abilities as it is about the deeper issue of feeling good enough. She wondered why anyone would listen to her singing, when there’s always someone who could do it better (how about Elvis?).

The ten-week program ends with performing a song for the group. Carmel chose “Blue Christmas”.

She sang it one time through. Nice! The group was proud of the fears and insecurities she had overcome. Yet I wanted to hear more from her heart and I asked her who she is singing to.

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

She explained that the song was dedicated to her two brothers. One of them died a long, long time ago, and this song was about wishing she had celebrated many more Christmases with them. Carmel sang the song again. The floor was hers and she took her sweet time. She looked sideways, out through her living room window. Could she see their faces between the clouds? She took the liberty to embellish the most melancholic notes and allowed herself a few extra moments before singing the loneliest words.

And when those blue snowflakes start falling
That’s when those blue memories start calling
You’ll be doing all right
With your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas

The song was followed by silence. Her audience was in awe. Touched. I was covered in goosebumps and tears welled up in my eyes.

This is what Carmel experienced:

“When I’m singing from my heart, I just might touch someone else’s heart, and what a gift that is. When I’m singing from my heart I drop beneath the fears and pains and loss of loved ones and there is only love. And the beauty of the song sings me. Yes. That’s what it felt like!”

The following week as I was preparing dinner listening to a Christmas radio station, Elvis came on singing above song. Instead of hearing the superstar, I heard Carmel again. I saw the expression in her eyes. I heard the music between her notes. I stopped chopping onions right away to let her know that I prefer her version over Elvis’.

I have a feeling I will always hear Carmel and think about her brothers when I hear “Blue Christmas”.


We wish you a beautiful holiday season with all your loved ones in your heart. May that love keep you strong throughout all of 2021.

Take a look at the many classes we are offering this winter season (January 4th through March 19th). We’d love for you to sing freely and fearlessly in 2021!  Carmel wrote:

“Marion’s teaching goes far beyond her expertise in choral leadership. It’s Marion’s indomitable spirit, her compassion and her ability to tune into each one of us, that helps us free ourselves with our voices.”

You can sign up for a class here.