Singing Alive Oregon

I had been going to transformational music festivals in Northern California for a number of years. The loud bass and substance-heavy culture caused me to slowly distance myself from the bigger festival scene. About one year ago, a friend described their experience at a special gathering with no bass, no stages, and no bands. At this gathering, down-to-earth bohemians of all ages sing songs for days. One year later, I fell in love with the gathering called Singing Alive.

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There are four primary lineages of song circles: community choir, rainbow songs, plant medicine songs, and kirtan. Singing Alive offers a balance of these different song lineages. Community choir uses multi-part harmonies to sing powerful songs. Rainbow songs come from the rainbow community, well-known for rainbow gatherings which have a large culture around heart and nature songs. Plant medicine songs are mainly influenced from Latin America and often sing prayers to ayahuasca, cacao, madre tierra, pachamama, etc. Finally, kirtan is sanskrit call-and-response mantra music originally from India and popularized in the west with songs like Hare Krishna, also known as the maha mantra.

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Singing Alive is a place where everyone is empowered to create music. There is no separation between performer and audience. The group performance is achieved through chant and song. The primary instrument is the voice. The format can be call-and-response or rounds.

One reason I love the gathering is because one does not need any musical background or to call themselves musical to have a good time. Everyone has a voice. We use the voice to talk everyday. The idea of singing scares a lot of people. Song circles are one of the best and easiest ways to activate the voice.

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At Singing Alive, songs are currency. The individuals who carry and teach the most songs have incredible respect from the community. When I want to learn a song from someone, I offer to share with them a song that I carry. Song knowledge is the most valued commodity. Counter-culture economics. Now we are starting to think like the rainbow family...

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Countless times during the festival, I was with a group, singing a song. As minutes passed by, I looked around at 30+ people sharing an ecstatic state of joy. The same joy that I was feeling. Multiple generations were sitting in this trance state together. I felt a deep sense of sacred ritual, especially around the evening fire circles. I feel an ancestral memory when my community gathers around a campfire.

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All photos by Darrick Morrison

Visit singingalive.org for event details.

Check out singingalive.org/songz to listen/learn some of the most well-known songs in the community.