SongRise Circle Singing

SongRise Collage


SongRise 1995 Promotional Video (with participant comments)
Very rough footage from SongRise 95, the first event of its kind in Canada. This 5-hour improvised vocal creation brought together 200 singers and 1200 audience members on New Year’s Eve 95 at St. Andrew’s Wesley Church (Vancouver, Canada.) Featured in this video in order of appearance: Rhiannon, Dee Daniels, Jon Washburn, Sal Ferreras, Ann Mortifee, Modesto and Laurel Murphy. Not shown: Coco Love Alcorn, Lovie Eli and Kate Hammett-Vaughan.



Latin Improv

From the SongRise Recording Sessions. 5 nights of spontaneous composition with 17 singers. (Laurel Murphy conductor/solo.)



SongRise 1999, New Year’s Eve, approx 1:30am
Where were you Dec 31st 1999? More than 850 people in Vancouver, Canada came together to sing in the new millennium, in spite of Y2K and other fears. This clip shows Laurel Murphy (vocal solo) composing parts in the moment for a vocal creation started at 9pm Dec 31st 1999 and ended at 2 am January 1st, 2000. She is joined by Rhiannon, lead conductor of the event. The evening also featured conductors Joey Blake, Pepe Danza, David Hatfield, Shari Ulrich, Jon Washburn and the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Producer: Laurel Murphy.


SongRise Press & Photos


These sessions are lively, very musical and fun! They usually start with exercises designed to warm-up the voice and body and to encourage a relaxed approach to singing. They may experiment with free-form improvisation as well as conducted improvisations and inevitably touch on various aspects of rhythm, ensemble singing and harmony. SongRise offers a great way to develop musical skills as well as to have fun singing with others! Singers generally stand in a circle. During the conducted improvisations, parts are given to sections of 2–8 singers at a time, depending on the size of the group. There are no words to learn–parts are made up of melodies and repetitive syllables that create harmony, rhythm and texture. Once a vocal “groove” has been established, musical ideas are continually added and changed so that the music keeps evolving in a seamless way. Stylistically, the music may have african, latin, jazz or gospel influences, depending on the mood of the day. There are often opportunities for individuals to improvise over top of the voices, but this is not a requirement. Sessions are generally 1.5 hours. Singers are encouraged to take good care of their voices, drinking lots of water and taking additional breaks if needed.



On December 30, 1993, Laurel Murphy flew to San Francisco to participate in Bobby McFerrin’s “Sing For Your Life”, a 24 hour improvised piece created at Grace Cathedral. So impressed by the experience, she returned to Vancouver, intent on sharing the magic of this musical form with her own city. On New Year’s Eve, 1995, SongRise was born–a product of the talent and inspiration of more than 200 singers, conductors and volunteers and 1200 audience members. Using the voices of singers and audience members as their only instruments, guest conductors composed a five-hour continuous vocal soundscape–layering ethereal harmonies over primal rhythms; weaving jazz and blues into traditional choral chants. The result was a musically and spiritually uplifting New Year’s experience, unlike any other event in Canada. SongRise was so enthusiastically received that a non-profit society was formed and it was remounted for a special Millennial Celebration on New Year’s Eve 1999. Produced by Laurel Murphy, SongRise 1995 and 1999 events featured Rhiannon, Joey Blake (both founding member of Bobby McFerrin’s “Voicestra”), Ann Mortifee, Sal Ferreras, Jon Washburn, Dee Daniels, Lovie Eli, Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Coco Love Acorn, Pepe Danza, Dave Hatfield, Shari Ulrich, Laurel Murphy and the 150 member SongRise Choir.



SongRise New Year’s Eve offered an experience that was musically and spiritually uplifting, appealing to music lovers as well as those seeking a more meaningful, alcohol-free New Year. In addition to the five-hour musical celebration, other opportunities were provided for participants to mark the New Year in a meaningful way. This included a labyrinth for walking meditation, a wish tree, and opportunities to write and reflect upon the coming year. Planning for another New Year’s event will depend upon funding. Let us know if you can help!


Conductors compose in the moment, communicating parts to the singers by singing to them. Harmonies and interlocking rhythms are added, changed and layered continuously, so that the piece shifts and evolves without ever stopping. For the New Year’s Eve event, the audience is also given parts to sing whenever possible. Three shifts of singers are filtered in and out of the five-hour soundscape in a seamless way and each conductor works for 30-60 minutes. It is. an act of daring and a great artistic challenge for our conductors, requiring skills in composition, improvisation, arranging and conducting.


SongRise New Year’s Eve 1999 would not have been possible without the generous support of Hollyhock and its associates. Hollyhock is a world-class workshop and retreat center on Cortes Island, BC. Nestled in a beautiful setting of ocean, gardens and forest, Hollyhock offers opportunities for renewal, discovery and great joy. Visit their website to find out more.