After attending a workshop with Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Connolly says:
It was amazing to do away with written music, and work together with other women to learn parts and create such soulful sounds! I wanted to recreate that experience in Portsmouth, NH. The response to the group has far exceeded my wildest dreams! These women and their singing have given me great joy!"
Joanne Connolly, Voices from the Heart Director
Director of Voices from the Heart
"Helloooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" Joanne calls to us at the beginning of every Monday night rehearsal in the sanctuary of old South Church in downtown Portsmouth. She stands at the grand piano in front of the altar with her microphone headgear looking like Britney or Madonna with water bottle in hand.
Women from near and far with varying levels of musical ability congregate weekly to fall under Joanne's musical spell. Joanne believes everyone can sing, and puts her belief to work. She reminds us regularly to "sing for yourself," no auditions are necessary. Joanne is part Peter Pan and part Wendy, and we are all her precious singers together on a sweet adventure.
Warm ups are very important for our practice. Joanne invites us to sit on our "dragon tail," and breathe through the pelvic floor, pushing the diaphragm down, making room for more breath. She demonstrates funny faces like a rabbit that brings the south up into the nasal cavity, and takes the pressure off the vocal chords.
When it comes to introducing new and sometimes challenging music, Joanne is a master teacher and compassionate world citizen. The music she chooses reflects her love of freedom and justice.
Joanne stretches herself and in turn invites us to stretch ourselves. Lifting her voice and her arms, her energy and commitment open new doors for all of us who are lucky enough to come under her tutelage. Joanne has created a community of singing women, Voices from the Heart, two hundred strong. Joanne reaches out to all of us in a kind and loving way, and supports us to do the same for each other. She is our gift and we give thanks.
In April 2017, Joanne was one of 3 women to receive the 2017 Inspiration Award from Portsmouth Public Media! The award is for those who have made the Portsmouth area a stronger, more vibrant place to live and work.