The Gift of Singing

I LOVE to sing (on a horse and in my truck and out in nature) and cannot
imagine my life without a soundtrack and the magical mystery of lyrics and
melody infusing my spirit constantly. Singing in front of people has been
harder due to some circumstances in my life that diminished the joy and sent me
further toward the sanctuary of those horses and my truck. In the last few
years, though, I’ve been gifted with some love and encouragement from family
and friends and I’m finding the joy and my passion is making friends with by
courage with every step toward a friend reaching out their hand to me and
offering sincere love, advice, smiles, hugs, and song suggestions. I am SO
grateful to every single soul who has blessed me with their encouragement and I
am looking forward to more opportunities to sing with my friends and let the
past fall behind me on a trail I’ll no longer travel or glance back at … for
I have come through the gate and seen the wide open and am running toward it!

There is a concert this Friday in Green Valley, AZ that prompted me to write this today. Two gals in the post below are so dear to me and they finally met last month and connected strongly as I knew they would. I wasn’t there that night as I was at the other end of the state photographing a horse clinic, but in talking to each of them it’s obvious that they are tickled pink about getting to know each other. The concert this Friday? Kip Calahan Young and Mary Kaye Knaphus. I’m so excited!

I’d like to thank a few folks here today who have cleared
some of the brush for me and offered to listen to me, sing with me, and laugh
with me when my vocal chords aren’t strong enough to match my spirit and my
breath hides on the high notes and my vibrato comes from my trembling body. You
are cherished, truly.

My husband, William, who has loved my voice and my joy of singing
from the start and has been there for me and encouraged me, without pushing me
to sing privately or publicly, and has made it clear that he will be there for
me with guitar and voice to play with me whenever I want. Although I’ve known
him since 1995 I was not able to look right at him (I know! My own husband.)
and sing until just a couple of years ago. I would shake and sweat and have to
close my eyes or turn away to be able to sing, even though I could sing along
with the radio with him in the truck with me before that since I was looking
ahead and not at him. Now, singing with him is becoming a true gift that bonds
us tighter.

My mother, Connie Mattioda, who happily lets me do the singing while she is a happy audience ofone.  From childhood, she only heard me
sing in the desert while we were riding together or later when I was driving
and we were traveling. My father made it clear in words and sometimes
more that I was not to sing around him and her love and strong encouragement,
often from the simple joy I felt from her and saw on her face when I sang, is
one of the major reasons I can sing at all.

Kip Calahan Young, who teased me when I connected with her in a way that made me
comfortable enough to start singing in the truck on the way to a dawn session
with ranch horses several years ago. I sang along with her CD, to Taking
Pictures with My Heart and Ponydance, and she told me to stop. I was a little
hurt and stopped. Then my joy in the dawn and our friendship took over and I
started again without thinking. She told me again to stop. I asked why and she
said “If you are going to sing that good I’m going to go get a camera and
become a photographer!” The teasing opened me up in ways no pushing or
prompting from others over the years ever did. When we got out to the horses, we were “out there” on the ranch and it was just the horses, Kip, her daughter Kyli, and I. While I weaved through the horses and photographed them in the dawn, Kip sat on the tailgate and made PB and J’s for us while Kyli slept. I looked over at her and said “What a way to worship on a Sunday, mmm?” and started singing In the Place that I Worship. She joined in and we sang the whole song through in prayerful and joyful comraderie. Thanks for giving me a key to that heavy door and singing with me, Kip.

Judy Coder, singing teacher extraordinaire, who taught me some breathing and relaxation
techniques, but who much more importantly introduced me to a part of myself
that had been blocked by something long in the past, for by looking that thing
right in the face I was able to walk by it and leave it where it belonged…far
from me. From that moment  I was determined to let nothing and no one, not even myself, keep me from singing joyfully.

Jon Messenger, who gives me a nod of invite to join him in
harmony on songs like Ponydance, Sky Above and Mud Below, The Eagle, and other
songs in an easy and comforting manner. He also was there for me at a pivotal
moment of soul crisis when I felt like giving up on singing, creating anything
for the public, and indeed relationships with people as well. Had he not been
there for me at the exact moment I needed compassion and direction and help
with throwing off the weight of something nasty from the past…well, I don’t
want to think about that. Point is he was and is a good friend and I know I can
count on him and I’m grateful.

Joyce Woodson, Rob Wolfskill, Audrey McLaughlin and the Journey
West gals, Suze Spencer Marshall, and a few other wonderful singers who took on
my “when I see you make me sing four lines to you” project. Four
lines of a song  was a BIG deal a few
years ago (about 2009-2010) and they really helped me get over my niggles of
fear. In fact, they not only listened and were kind but they also gave me
advice on how to make my voice stronger. When I dared sing along with Joyce
during a jam to one of her songs, and flinched when she looked right at me
(thinking I was being rude by singing with her) she made a point to tell me how
much she enjoyed hearing me sing HER song with her. Sigh of relief.

Kristyn Harris, who made it fun to sing with her on our
travels (and around the house, in the corral, in the desert, etc.)in a easy as
breathing way and we sang until neither of us had voices left. We sang western
and cowboy songs together, I introduced her to songs of different genres
(including her first introduction to Someone to Watch Over Me sung by Linda Ronstadt),
and more. My husband, she, and I even wrote a song together, Making My Way Back
To You. Even though her extremely busy life, travels, and her living a state
away keep us from seeing each other much I enjoy the times we do get  and the memories as well.

My mom let me sing without reins, Kip let me feel I could sing by her side and learn to sing
better, Kristyn was a big step toward singing joyfully and exuberantly with
another person, and this next gal is paramount to my working to sing strong and
free (and  to WORK my voice to make it
the best it can be).

 Mary Kaye Knaphus is my dear friend and sister in heart and soul. We lift each other up and will not allow each other to hide our light under a bushel. There have been singers in
my life from childhood who I am comfortable singing with and those few by whom I am
inspired to TRY to sing better so I can meet even a few notes with them and
have the breath to sing as passionately and strongly as they do. Mary Kaye’s
voice is far better than I feel mine will ever be and yet I sing with love and
joy and (more) strength because of our connection. In addition, her songwriting
is stellar and I love her songs! One time, we had been traveling back from a
very cold, challenging photography session for her No Wilder Place CD and I
entered her home for the first time. I immediately felt safe and at home and
so, like the songbird I am when I am happy, I started singing. She was busy
bringing things in and I didn’t think she heard me. When she said how happy she
was to hear me singing in her home, my heart brightened and I was brave enough
to ask how she thought I sounded. She promptly said I sounded wonderful, yet there
was a pause and I asked “And?” She replied that my voice was
beautiful but weak and I should work the singing muscles to be able to project
and sing with my whole body and spirit. Then she took my hands and said
“Like this” and SANG so clearly and wondrously that tears sprang to
my eyes and I was infused with her strength, joy, passion, and beauty and I
KNEW. I knew at that moment that she had given me a gift that had not only
healed my heart, it was the gift of moving from “I want to sing” to
“I must SING.” From that moment, whenever my past sinks it’s teeth
into me or I’m hesitant to sing from some misplaced sense of trepidation, I
embrace that moment and bring it firmly into the present. I look forward to a
lifetime of singing and Mary Kaye’s gift of that seed of Grace is nurtured in
my soul.

I am grateful to each person who gifts me with a smile, a
hug, a nod, a song, or a word or two of kindness on this song-filled journey.
People like those just this last weekend at the Crossroads Gathering and SWRRA
Ranch Roping in Benson, AZ who heard me sing one song at the Friday night jam
and were so encouraging to “the photographer who likes to sing.” Buck
Helton, who said I reminded him of Gillian Welch (blush). Paul Dietz, who gave
me a quiet compliment in the middle of the arena the next day (sometimes the quiet
compliments mean SO much). Evelyn Roper, who thought for a bit trying to
“peg” my style of voice and called it the high lonesome sound. To
each of you who came to me and said a kind word, I thank you. I thank you

And thank you to every songwriter and singer out there who has brought
a song to the world that became one in the soundtrack of my life. You have
given me a way to express myself when I couldn’t find the words and also given
me insight and stories and rhythm to dance to and so much more. BTW, Donnie
Blanz, though you didn’t even know me when you wrote Takin’ Pictures with my
Heart I feel you wrote it for me!

May we meet on the trail soon. Maybe we can sing a song
together. 😉


Lori Faith

About Lori Faith

Lori Faith Merritt of Photography By Faith utilizes the Art of Connection to specialize in equine and cultural images that transcend the ordinary.
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