Women With Wings
Women With Wings was a direct outgrowth of the Cakes classes. Women who took part in the class went on to organize annual retreats for the women of the church. In 1993 we invited Kay Gardner, a pioneer in feminist music and in the healing power of music, to present a workshop at our retreat. She was impressed by our singing and Colleen Fitzgerald, from our group, asked Kay if she would start a singing group in Bangor. She agreed, and in October 1993, 34 women showed up to sing. Women With Wings was born.
Every Thursday night we join our voices in a circle, in a room illuminated only by candles on a central altar. We sing simple songs and chants that celebrate the cycles of our lives, the Earth, seasons, our connection with all of life, peace, healing…. We learn them through the oral tradition rather than from sheet music. We sing them repeatedly, so we can get out of our heads and sing from our hearts.
Magic happens when we breathe as one body, as we resonate with the lyrics of empowerment and affirmation, and resound together. One magical outcome is that many of our members started to write songs, including me. Singing with Women With Wings takes me directly to a place of openness. We create a magical connection as we open our hearts and souls in song.
Kay Gardner was instrumental in my songwriting. In addition to directing Wings, she became the music director at our church. I took piano/music lessons from Kay. She showed me the Dorian mode (a scale, but not a major or minor Western scale) and assigned me to “go write a piece in this mode.” I said “I can’t write a song.” She insisted that I could. So I did!
My very first song with words came to me in 1996, days after my dear friend Kathleen died. Another friend needed a ride into town and I drove out through the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania, where my family lived 1994-95. By the time I got to her house, I had My Spirit Lives On in its entirety. She had a piano so I sat down and wrote out the song so I wouldn’t forget it. Kay was so encouraging when I brought this song back to our circle.
I became good friends with Kay, sharing side-splitting laughs at post-Wings gatherings and enjoying afternoon tea. After I started writing songs, she showed me how to use her music writing program. When I got my own program a few years later, she gave me lessons. Kay mentored me in conducting, teaching me a sharp ictus and other skills for directing Wings where I substituted for her occasionally. Little did we know that she was enabling me to step into her leadership role when she made her untimely exit from this world. In 2002, after almost 9 years leading Wings, Kay died suddenly. It was just two weeks after we’d been camping and singing at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Shortly thereafter, I became the music director for Women With Wings.