Features / Singing

A singing project for Bristol’s transgender community

By lowie trevena, Tuesday Oct 20, 2020

A voice work project for transgender and non-binary people has been adapting to the ongoing pandemic and is launching new courses.

Founded by Francis Myerscough at the beginning of 2020, the Phoenix Song Project is a group for creative exploration of the voice.

Francis, who is a trained music therapist, supports members of the project to explore their voice, selves and body, and has been about to launch a choir when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“I’d been interested in explicitly and actively inclusive therapy practice for a long time,” says Francis.

“When I was directing a choir for Trans Pride South West last year, I had a number of people say they would have liked to join, but did not feel they knew their voices enough to sing in a group like that.

“If we zoom in and talk about voice specifically, and in a day-to-day kind of way, there’s just not many spaces in which we can explore what is one of our key instruments of communication.

“If we zoom out and look at the wider psychological impact, creative experiences like this are really powerful forces for our mental health. Play and creativity stimulate new neural growth, helping us develop new ways of being ourselves and relating with others.”

The Phoenix Song Project will launch new courses ahead of the winter months. Photo: Nicky Ebbage

When the UK went into lockdown, Francis, who lives in east Bristol, put the Phoenix Song Project on pause.

As the pandemic continued, they decided to host sessions online. As the winter months approach, Francis is launching two new courses for the trans and non-binary community.

From mid-November, they will run a songwriting course, and they are also trialling a casual, “karaoke-style” choir as well.

“I’ve been giving thought to the types of sessions which work well online – a lot of the group improvisational stuff I’d do in person doesn’t translate well because of the lag,” they explain.

Although the songwriting course is less focused on voice work, which the project was originally created to help trans and non-binary explore, it responds to a time of year when lots of us encounter more singing.

The Phoenix Song Project explores the transgender experience of voice. Photo: Emily Lloyd

“This singing often getting tied to traditions or expectations that exclude us (explicitly or implicitly),” says Francis.

“So, the group is about creating songs for us to sing which not only include but celebrate us.”

The karaoke choir will be a simple, unified way for trans and non-binary to come together and sing in an accessible way.

“This play and creativity stimulate new neural growth, helping us develop new ways of being ourselves and relating with others,” Francis says. “Somewhere in the middle, there’s this tie between our voice and our ‘me-ness’ – what do ‘I’ sound like?

“That makes it a strong nexus for creative therapeutic work with the community.”

Main photo: Nicky Ebbage

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