That time I sang for President Obama

— October 13, 2021 —

I remember that time like it was yesterday: it was a frigidly cold January day, and I was equal parts Ready-To-Kill-It and Scared-To-Freaking-Death.

For years I had taught singing at Washington National Cathedral, occasionally singing here and there as needed. I had been asked by my boss to contribute some chant by Hildegard von Bingen (my muse) as part of the National Prayer Service, an event held the day after the Presidential Inauguration here in the U.S.

Um, of course?

So there I was, after a lifetime of waiting in anticipation, ready to begin the service, managing the Secret Service checkpoints (which made trips to the ladies room a nightmare 😭), the freezing cold conditions, the feeling that my cassock/ hairstyle/ relative height made me feel like a small, little girl, and this nagging terror that using my tuning fork to get my first pitch could possibly be construed as some kind of weapon by the Secret Service Agent to my immediate left.

At last, I finally step up to the podium to deliver my message. Unaccompanied. Tuning fork anxiety. Naked voice. Regrettable choice of hair clip. Awkward church clothing. People watching. Don’t look nervous, keep your head up. Dear GOD do not wet yourself right now because you actually could.

My inner world was utter chaos

So thank goodness, then, when I heard this inner voice, clear as day:

Just. Breathe.

I gripped the sides of my podium stand, and let a gush of air rush into my body, then felt myself surge with in-the-momentness and then, well, I let ‘er rip.

Here is what I sang:

Nunc gaudeant materna viscera Ecclesie,
quia in superna simphonia filii eius
in sinum suum collocati sunt.

(Now let the maternal heart of the Church rejoice,
for in celestial harmony her children
are gathered into her bosom.)

In hindsight, I know why this experience was so overwhelming: it was a power surge like none I had ever experienced before. It was truly a moment in which I recognized the presence and power of the divine, sacred feminine moving through me.

And the lesson is clear: you must surrender to the power of your very own voice.

Your voice is married to a source of great power and divinity. My friend, that is a Big Deal. It means that if you are not clear or sure or wise to it, you can feel completely overwhelmed and underwater.

In that moment of power, standing on a podium, for (literally) the world and the most “important” person in the world to hear, I became the channel of an incantation of a divine, healing, feminine prayer to gather us back into whole and right relationship with ourselves and the planet.

We are in the midst of an awakening to the sacred feminine, and I see this directly in the way we use our voice. Indeed, it is my ardent prayer that we, as singers, relieve ourselves of the suffering wrought upon us by subscribing the outdated paradigm of vocal technique that cultivates a perfectionistic ideal of the voice.

Let’s evolve.

More than any skill or technique I exercised on that podium was the power of the act of surrender of my own ego so that my voice could be a conduit of the prayer. This is not boastful, this is fact.

The power is the thing.

If you notice any resistance to your own voice, know what that is. There is a resistance to your very own freaking power. Say this prayer:

I release the resistance to my own power, and allow my voice to flow through me with ease and grace. I embrace the message that moves through me for my own healing, and the healing of the world.

Let us envision a way forward with our voice that is free from strife, grief, longing, and worry. Let us step into a way that is supportive, nurturing, healing, freeing, soulful, and, oh yes… POWERFUL. 🔥



Allison Mondel
Allison Mondel is a musician, philosopher, advocate, and mentor. Her greatest delight is to understand how things work, and share her hard-won wisdom with others. She writes about the higher nature of music and the voice, alchemizing personal roadblocks, and the pursuit of one's creative vocation.

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