The Heart Beat of the Labyrinth

We created the intention of engendering a sense of community and breaking the isolation of our cold Ottawa winter through the heart beat of the drum to accompany our monthly labyrinth walk at the Cathedral. It is interesting to observe what follows the creation of an intention.

We invited Kathy Armstrong, Founder and Director of Baobab Community, a well known percussionist specializing in african drumming, dance and song. Perhaps this was a well informed intention based on our practice of hosting labyrinth walks and our growing experience with intentionally created music to accompany the labyrinth experience. We have come to know that there is a great variety of music that “works” with the labyrinth.   We have also learned that the space of the labyrinth can be held musically or energetically by very little means. A few simple beats by a talented musician can help to establish the container for participants.

While I don’t know Kathy well, I have great respect for her creative work as well as her skill in building community through her musical offerings. Kathy leads, not from an ego centered place, but with a gentle heart. She is an attentive observer who uses her creativity to reach out to participants through sound. The beat of the drum is compelling and it was not possible to remain still. Several time during the evening while I was trying to take photographs in very low light I had to tell myself to stop moving so that I would not jiggle the camera. People swayed, tapped and clapped along, the whole room seemed in motion, gently moving to the beat of the drum. There is something irresistible about being in the presents of a drummer. The body responded in spite of my myself. Add to that the occasional chant and it didn’t matter that we couldn’t understand the words, the sentiment came through loud and clear.

Kathy had brought her friend Jennifer, who was visiting from London Ontario. I noticed from the very first tentative taps and clacks that Jennifer was a musician. I found out later she is very well trained in the choral tradition.  At one point Kathy created a conversation, musically that is, with the use of simple rhythmic instruments. While walking the perimeter of the labyrinth Kathy pecked out a call and her friend Jennifer answered in a different instrument voice. The effect was like listening to animals or birds in the night, talking to each other across a valley. Fascinating, what is created with such simple means in the hands of talented musicians.

A conversation through Call and Response

We ended the evening by joining hands and threaded our way into the labyrinth in an ancient form of the crane dance. In no time at all we were all laughing and improvising as we followed Kathy into the centre of the labyrinth. Things picked up even more on our way out as we gave a high five to everyone we encountered. It’s very dynamic when you find yourself sandwiched, with eager hands greeting you on both side at the same time. What a delightful way to warm up the winter.


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