Laurel Murphy is a Vancouver-born singer, improviser and teacher of vocal improvisation. Her musical influences and interests are diverse, from performances of jazz repertoire to interdisciplinary collaborations. Improvisation has been a constant thread over the past 25 years that inspires all aspects of her work.
Laurel’s love of improvisation led her to collaborate with many singers and artists under names such as “ImproVox”, “VocoLoco”, “Zen Mouth Storm”, “The Human Loops”, “Improvocation”. Her current project,“Blank Space” is a monthly series that explores improvised vocal performance, audience participation and collaboration with artists of other disciplines.
In 1995 and 1999, Laurel produced two pivotal events in Vancouver for New Year’s eve. “SongRise” brought together over 1400 singers and audience members in a celebration of spontaneous voice, and launched an improvisational choir and classes that continued for 12 years. Her work was featured in the documentary “Sing!” in 2000.
Laurel has spent time in the studio as well. Her jazz cd “When I Was a Bird” (CDbaby, itunes, Spotify) was released in 2015 and features the talents of some of Canada’s finest musicians. She has been featured on a variety of other recordings, as singer and co-producer of Rhiannon’s “Flight” cd, background vocals for children’s singer/advocate, Raffi, and spontaneous compositions with a 17 voice choir. Her current recording projects including improvised soundscapes for relaxation, 3D sound and improvised looper compositions.
Daughter of musical parents who first met in a church choir, Laurel began singing at a young age. She grew up listening to everything from Joni Mitchell to Puccini, Led Zepellin to Nat King Cole and Glenn Miller. In 1992, after several influential years of classical voice training with Gillian Hunt, she met Rhiannon, a founding member of Bobby McFerrin’s cutting-edge a cappella group “Voicestra” and was introduced to the wild world of vocal improvisation. Exposure to this approach altered Laurel’s relationship to music and inspired her to delve deeper into the art of improvisation, as well as to complete the Jazz and Contemporary Music program at VCC. She worked intensively with Rhiannon since 1992, as student and assistant at regular workshops in Canada and the US and as co-pilot at her first All the Way In program in 2008.
Laurel has also been very influenced by her studies with masters of other improvisational disciplines: Ruth Zaporah (movement/sound/narrative), Margie Gillis (movement), Richard Armstrong (voice), Natalie Goldberg (writing) and Stewart Cubley (painting).
In 1993 Laurel attended Bobby McFerrin’s 24-hour “Sing For Your Life” at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. So moved by the experience, she returned to Vancouver to produce her own choral events: “SongRise–A Celebration of Improvised Voice” (New Year’s Eve 1995) and “SongRise–Voices Raised for the New Millennium” (New Year’s Eve 1999.) These inspirational gatherings brought together 200 singers, a host of talented conductors, and 1200 audience members in the creation of a five-hour continuous vocal soundscape to welcome the New Year. They also helped to establish an ongoing improvisational singing community in Vancouver and introduced Rhiannon’s work to a larger community in Vancouver and at Hollyhock on Cortes Island.
Laurel is very passionate about the potential of sound to heal and transform. She began working with the Callanish Society in Vancouver in 2004, offering sound sessions for cancer support and creating the Sound Journeys series for the general public. While at Callanish, Laurel was very fortunate to learn from hypnotherapist Lis Smith. Together they produced a hypnosis cd called “Blossomtime” for relaxation and sleep. Laurel continues to offer sound sessions at Callanish and appreciates how it continues to deepen her experience of music and service.
Laurel’s ongoing work with a variety of improvisational disciplines and vocal techniques form the foundation of her teaching. Since 1997 she has been offering classes and workshops that explore the voice as instrument and improvisation as a vehicle of creative expression and personal transformation. Laurel’s approach to singing is joyful and spontaneous, building trust in one’s inner musician, encouraging risk-taking and laughter, and ultimately the discovery of many hidden gifts.
A SAMPLE OF PROJECTS AND APPEARANCES
* Teacher of vocal improvisation and facilitator of circle singing events in Vancouver and abroad (numerous cities in British Columbia, Toronto, Whitehorse, Washington DC, Denver CO, Seattle, Dublin Ireland)
• Regular jazz vocalist at the Jericho Tennis Club in Vancouver.
• “IMPROVOCATION”–an improvised performance with Lin Snelling dance, Michael Reinhart guitar, Sara Marreiros and Heidi McCurdy voice (2011 & 2013).
• Backup vocalist on Raffi’s CD’s Communion, Resisto Dancing and other projects.
• Featured performer (improvisation and live looping) in the documentary film “My15Minutes” (2012) by film maker Trent Savage.
• Featured performer (with Ryan Slemko) at the 10th Annual International Looper Festival in Santa Cruz, October 2009: live vocal improvisation with multiple loopers.
• Vocalist on Rhiannon’s”FLIGHT” cd–an interactive instructional cd set for vocal improvisation, with Rhiannon, Linda Tillery and other founding members of Bobby McFerrin’s “Voicestra”• The Roundhouse: Artist in Residence, Feb-July 2003.
* Working with Kathryn Ricketts (Main Dance) on a collaborative community piece exploring themes of displacement, cultural identity and community through improvised voice and movement.
• One World Music, January 2003: Facilitated 1400 Starbucks employees in improvisational soundscape.
• Mascall Dance “Housewerk”: 6 month collaboration and exploration with Mascall Dance and “ImproVox” (Laurel’s improvisational project) resulting in a series of performances of improvised dance and voice, May 2002.
• Womens Voices Festival, Ottawa, July 2001: Performance and workshop facilitation.
• Karen Jamieson’s “Raven of the Railway” production, May 2001 and April/May 2003: Composed and directed two vocal scores (improvisational in nature).
• One of four featured artists in the documentary “SING” by film maker Bill Weaver (produced in association with Vision-TV, Bravo and Knowledge Network.)
• Vancouver Sacred Music Festival, November 2000: Guest conductor and facilitator.
• “WeBe3” concerts in San Francisco, December 2000: Guest singer and improviser with Rhiannon, Joey Blake, Linda Tillery and David Worm.
• Vancouver Folk Music Festival July 1999: Backup vocals for Rhiannon’s mainstage performance with Jami Sieber and Sal Ferreras.
• SongRise 1995 and 1999: producer and conductor of 5-hour improvised vocal events for New Year’s Eve