When a songwriter loses her voice…

Sora with Cindy O'Neil

What would you do if you knew you were going to lose your voice forever?  What song would you sing?  Here’s a guest blog by S.A.C. Member Sora whose work with someone in this very predicament is both moving and inspiring.  It is also a great reminder to those of us who still have our voices to keep on singing!

In Sora’s Words…

Every musician knows there are difficulties to be had in any recording experience.   Scheduling, financing, timing and technical issues are all fairly common. Yet,  in the end,  we overcome knowing that no matter how we come to the recording, the instrument is unfailing, that the ultimate joy is the moment when we move our songs through our fingers, through our voices, through our bodies from that ether realm of imagination into something tangible, something real.   Imagine if you would then, that in addition to the regular obstacles that there was one with a far more personal and devastating impact:  that your body had now become the greatest challenge of all.

I met Cindy O’Neil in 2007 at a SOCAN event.   We hit it off instantly and within weeks we were co-writing a song together.  It was my first co-writing experience and though I was nervous, unsure how to proceed, unsure as to how Cindy’s jazzy and my Celtic new age styles would mesh, Cindy’s positive, upbeat attitude had us laughing, chording and lifting our voices together in song.  By the end of the night I had recorded on my mp3 player the basics of a duet, “Wings in Flight”.

We always wanted to record it, especially after performing it live and receiving amazing feedback.    Everything seemed on track.  The virtuosic violinist and composer, Donovan Seidle, who is an old friend of mine agreed to write a string arrangement and we had someone to produce it in a studio.   Of course, the best laid plans often go awry and the recording dates fell apart.  These things happen right?  As an artist synergy in projects is important, it creates momentum, focuses and streamlines.  Cindy and I thought that maybe it wasn’t quite the right time, that there would always be another recording date.   A year passed and Cindy moved from Calgary to Ontario to be with her fiancé.  Still, I thought perhaps on my next recording project I could fit Wings in Flight onto it.  We thought that we had forever to record it.

Forever came sooner than we thought.

For you see, Cindy has been living for years with a life threatening disease, rheumatoid arthritis.  And the medication that allows her do even the most basic of functions, that allows her to get dressed, brush her hair, this medication is stripping away her voice.    Cindy phoned me and told me this earlier in the year and asked “can we record our song before I don’t have a voice left?”

We struggled to make a plan, with limited finances and cross country distance between us.  I contacted a producer and recording engineer I know in Winnipeg and though this seemed an ideal solution, dates could not be pinned down.  The song felt as though it might just slip away into oblivion.  But a second phone call from Ontario changed all that.  Cindy’s fiancé, Ken, was planning a surprise trip West for her and when he asked if they could see me, it was as if the Universe had opened up and given me a gift, the ability to put together the best surprise present I could think of:  a recording.

Within weeks it was all set up.    And this time, it all fell into place perfectly, the recording studio, the musicians, media.  I went into the studio and recorded the bedtracks and scratch vocal and hoped beyond hope that as the temporary guardian of this song, that I would do it justice, that I could manifest our joint vision to her satisfaction as well as mine.

Cindy knew nothing, until we stepped inside the studio.   The song was put on and Cindy‘s face said everything.   She was overwhelmed, crying, laughing and above all else, she was singing.   I can’t say it wasn’t a struggle, it was.  Cindy lungs burned with each take, but to listen to her beautiful voice soaring above the lush strings wasn’t my gift to her.  It was her gift to me.  It’s not every day the Universe gives you the opportunity to give someone a legacy.  And if a song, recorded as one’s voice fades -as the unfailing instrument cracks- isn’t a legacy,  I don’t know what is.

 Click Here to visit Sora’s Songwriter Profile.




2 thoughts on “When a songwriter loses her voice…

  1. Gorgeous, uplifting post, thanks for sharing! Steve Jobs famously said that ‘death is the greatest invention of life’, and maybe the fading voice is the greatest invention of music. Lady in Satin by Billie Holiday is one of the most painful records I’ve ever heard: a woman right at the end of the road singing songs about the journey there.


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