Phoenix-area vocal ensemble Voices Lifted was founded by Kellie Walker, a registered music therapist and longtime Director of Music Ministries at the Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Chandler.
Walker had already been exploring ideas for creative music-outreach programs when she attended a California workshop held by Threshold Choirs founder Kate Munger three years ago. Walker had recently found out her sister’s breast cancer had metastasized, and she welcomed the chance to let go and experience being sung to by the all-female choir.
“I learned a beautiful song with the words, ‘I’m gonna lift my sister up / She is not heavy / If I don’t lift her up / I will fall down,’” Walker said. “As the group of female voices singing in harmony washed over me, I felt cared for, and my tears were healing. And, a year and a half later, as I sat with my sister on the night she died at home, that song was the last song that I sang to her.”
Comforted by the CDs of the Threshold Choir, Walker was inspired to found a similar singing group in the Phoenix area. Thanks to the support of the Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation and a recent grant from the UUA Fund for Social Responsibility, Walker was able to start Voices Lifted in spring 2009.
Since then, the Voices Lifted singers have visited a variety of hospices, assisted-living homes and other community centers in the greater Phoenix area, including: the Desert Haven Care Center in Phoenix, Leland Manor in Mesa, the Dobson Home in Chandler, the Lund Family Hospice Home in Gilbert and Friendship Village in Tempe.
Although some of the women attend the Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, the group is open to women in the greater Phoenix area and doesn’t promote any particular religion. The women sing inspirational, healing and newly composed songs and chants from many different spiritual traditions. Girls ages 10 and older are welcome to join along with a female family member, and several mother-daughter pairs have been part of the group.
“I didn’t know that singing to people in times of transition would be so meaningful for me,” one woman commented at a recent rehearsal. “The songs are so full of love and comfort. We’re often moved to tears, but in a good way.”