Wails: Songs for Grief

This is it. Dream coming through. With your support, Alexandra Blakely and friends recorded a 200 person community choir in Dolby Atmos for an album entirely dedicated to grief in July 2023. This album is called “WAILS: songs for grief,” and it is inspired by Whales and the five gates of grief from Francis Weller’s book, “The Wild Edge of Sorrow.” There will be a song for each gate - an opening and closing song and an opening and closing invocation/prayer/spell. This album is meant to be like sitting in a circle, a ceremony if you will, to honor grief in a culture that is grief-illiterate & grief phobic.
Update 8/8/23
We have recorded the choir and ahlay's vocals in the studio in Portland, OR with sound engineer Todd Boston and composer Max Ribner. We are still accepting support (especially financially) as we prep to rent a cathedral for the albums release (hopefully) in late spring 2024 in Seattle, WA. We are also looking to collaborate with visionary filmmakers to help us tell the story of ritual and communal grief literacy as a pathway to transforming histories and shifting the overculture. We thank you for your continued support.

Update 5/8/2023
We upped our fundraising goal today. As the project grows, so do some of the costs required to compensate so many people for their time, skills and love.

Update 3-27-23
TICKETS NOW ON SALE for the summer choir gathering!!!

Artist and song tender Alexandra "ahlay" Blakely has written an album entirely dedicated to grief. Written in the community singing tradition, the intention of the songs is to inspire communities to create their versions of contained circles together to sing + become more agile in their relationship with grief. 
The album is inspired by the five gates of grief from Francis Weller’s book The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Ahlay dreamed of recording the songs with a choir and from this vision, WAILS: Songs for Grief - Album Recording + Gathering was born. 

The 4 days will be centered around 4 recorded song circles (3 hours each), recording 5 songs (the five gates) with a professional sound engineer. The recordings will happen inside a lodge and will be woven into the album WAILS: Songs for Grief. 

Interlaced between the recorded song circles is spaciousness to be well fed and rested, to be with the land and the creek, to explore art installations and to come together in the evenings for learning, playing, grieving and moving together. These times are guided by a diverse group of artists, facilitators and circle tenders. Late Sunday evening and all day Monday we'll shift towards integration and prepare ourselves to face the outside world once again. We'll close with a song circle with Mamuse and a closing circle with our Wails Circle Tenders. Over the entire weekend, we'll be together as one group, with some optional activities.

Joining the recorded choir is optional and we welcome folks who want to attend but don’t want to participate in the recorded song circles.

We hope you'll join us!

Update 3-12-23
Although we have reached our online goal, our second fundraising strategy for the production of the album will be through the summer recording gathering we are curating (see more below). This means we are still accepting donations through this gofundme campaign. Every contribution gets poured into the making of the album.

Fundraising history:
On 11-11-22 we launched this fundraiser and 1 month and 4 days later we collectively reached our goal of $11,111. On March 11, 2023, we had an in-person fundraiser in Seattle, WA and collectively raised $10,000 in one night, in 3 hours! Over a hundred people joined us that evening to support the eagle-eye vision of WAILS. Visionaries are we. To create an album that will reach into the homes of thousands, if not millions, to invoke this apprenticeship with sorrow (as Francis Weller would say), and hopefully inspire the act of not only communal singing but communal grieving.

On July 28-31, 2023 we are holding a 4 day gathering in Sedro-Woolley, Washington to record 5 of the songs off the album with a 111-200 person choir. We will be joined by the likes of Mamuse, Lyndsey Scott, Leticia Nieto and many others.

FAQs: Yes, the choir requires a little audio/video clip of you singing (see more on ONE VOICE below). Yes, there are limited tickets for those who don't want to audition for the choir, but wish to attend. Yes, the choir recordings happen indoors. Yes, it will be a 4 day grief, pleasure & rest gathering. Yes, kids can come and there will be daycare during our recorded song circles. Yes, people will pay for their camping/food/choir/tailored experience with elders, musicians, artists & grief-ful ministry. And yes, you should definitely save those dates if you imagine yourself there. If you are curious about how to stay updated, signing up for Ahlay's newsletter is the best way. The event page/ticket sales/website goes live on March 27, 2023.

Recording a choir is distinct from community singing. In community singing, singing is an inherent birthright that is less about what it sounds like and more about how it feels in your body**. For recording a choir, things like pitch and volume matter. We have a sound engineer with us for only a small window to catch the recordings needed to fill out the album. We hold the understanding that voices are diverse and the majority of voices are so perfect for this recording. Singing with one voice means no one voice is louder than another and we are singing together unified as a collective. This requires skilled and attuned listening to one another. In the unlikely event that you have a voice that sits above the collective vocal mix, we may ask you to adjust your volume or pitch.
If you are registering to join the choir for recording, we request a 30 second audio or video clip with your registration name via an email provided in registration. This will help the sound engineering team get a feel for the tone of voices we’ll be welcoming in. Your sharing will be held in confidentiality and listened to with respect.
**Every night we will have a round robin of song that won’t be recorded and we invite everyone to join in on these singing sessions. The recorded song sessions with the choir are Sat + Sun 10-1 and 3-6pm. For those who select to attend the event without joining the choir you will have these allotted times to rest, to be with the land, the creek + the art installations.

with love,

More about WAILS: Songs for Grief

These funds also support the recordings of humpback whale song to weave in and throughout the album. Whales teach me how to breathe into my body so that I may grieve (wail), and they model how to journey to the underworld and rise back up again into the light.

This album is birthed out of the community singing tradition that views singing as an inherent birthright to all life. It is more about how it feels in the body and the benefits from singing together, i.e. unlocking stagnated emotions such as grief that live in hidden caverns of many a body. Not to mention the amplified frequencies of aliveness that the beyond human world receives from the unified voices.

If we grieve people going to war, we bring to light the absurdity of it. Instead, if we forbid grieving, we can glorify and celebrate the folks who "die for a cause." If we grieve anti-blackness and white supremacy, then we have to look at it. If we grieve capitalism, then we might have to reimagine our economy. If we grieve the climate crisis, then we might need to change EVERYTHING.

Death (in many of its forms) has historically been the most socially acceptable reason for grief. And even then, we are only allotted a certain, short amount of time to do it. "aren't you over it yet?" "something is wrong with her..." "she has been grieving for too long; it is time for her to move on."

Grief isn't something we get over. Do you get over happiness? Or have we accepted happiness as something that comes and goes? Something that ebbs and flows? Grief is this way too.

Grief is not a sign of weakness or to be pathologized. NO. Grief is a sign of the depth of our love for the world. "to love is to accept the rites of grief," -Francis Weller.

I believe grief processes to be part of the body's inherent wisdom of internal cleansing. Relieving us of unmetabolized aches and pains that, if left unattended, become our depression, our physical ailments, our shadows & our venom that we spray onto others.

These songs are a commitment to this apprenticeship with sorrow, to bringing it back into the balance of life. The acknowledgment that grief is deeply connected with joy, pleasure & our capacity to face this seemingly backwards world and to witness her beauty as well. These songs remind us to continuously return to the altar as a form of ongoing soul maintenance. To wail, to cry, to pray, to travel to the underworld and to return again, again, again.

Thank you for believing in the power of song, of singing together, of community, of circle work, of ceremony, of prayer and of grieving: of grief as a form of honoring that which we love.



Donations (387)

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Alexandra (Ahlay) Blakely
Seattle, WA

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