Maggie Nicols

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The Gathering

"Music is the healing force of the universe"

Albert Ayler

Self Portrait by Maggie Nicols and picture by Aura Vince

The Gathering is a space, place and time where we can build up confidence in our creativity; where we can sit in silence, sing, play an instrument, draw, be poetic; prophetic; we could talk in tongues, talk to each other, to ourselves, talk to voices. We can listen, make sounds; melodies and noise, soft and loud; leave space, fill it up; explore rhythm and time, chaos and rhyme; lullabies and laments; shyly and boldly be in our different rhythms together.

In 1989, at a meeting of the London Musicians' Collective, a few of us felt that it would be good to come together in a way that was less stressful than some of our meetings - a Gathering. It started with improvising musicans but quickly expanded to include anyone who wanted to explore and experiment in a welcoming environment. It's a place where experienced musicians use their skills to encourage rather than exclude others.

It's possible to participate at any level that feels comfortable. Everyone is musical in some way; a sigh, sounding the breath, one simple strong repeating beat, blowing across a bottle, tapping a glass, singing one note ... All these sounds can be just as powerful as knowing an instrument well.

Many experienced musicians have come to respect the challenge of simplicity. Whatever the level of musicianship for me, it's about trusting our ability to communicate and be expressive through sound and silence. At our Gatherings, things happen at different levels. We can be in the middle of a gentle, intense moment and someone will walk in and be greeted with enthusiasm. Some people chat, while other people play. It's the nearest thing to freedom of being that I've ever experienced.

It's hard for people to let go of what we've been socialised to believe is 'proper' music, but in letting go of preconceptions we discover the joy of music as a liberating and healing force.

Maggie Nicols

Maggie & Michelle

photo by Dennis Austin
The 'Grand Gathering' at Hecate's Haven 2004

Gatherings (open improv sessions) are held in various locations.The London Gathering is at Chances in Tottenham High Road  Check facebook  The Gathering Free Improvisation page for more details. There's also a you tube channel The Gathering Things. Also a gathering takes place on the first Monday of every month in Drefach Felindre, Carmarthenshire, West Wales from 8 p.m Please telephone 01559 370081 for directions. There's also a monthly one in Liverpool at The Bluecoat Arts Centre.

Admission to Gatherings is free, all welcome.

The Gathering

a wild west wales site designed by harry rogers