Soulful singing moments

Wendy Luella Perkins is about to release her new album, inspired by 108 teachings of a Buddhist nun

Wendy Luella Perkins originally came to Kingston in 1994 to go to Queen’s Theological College.
Wendy Luella Perkins originally came to Kingston in 1994 to go to Queen’s Theological College.
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At Wendy Luella Perkins’ home near Skeleton Park, we discussed her new album This Very Moment: Inspirational Chants for Singing, Dancing and Meditation.

Perkins and her husband, fellow musician Charlie Walker, moved to their current Kingston home in 2002. Perkins has hosted what she calls “soulful singing sessions” every Thursday night since arriving in Kingston.

“I think of it as a kind of singing meditation,” she said. “You can do it by yourself or you can do it with a bunch of people.”

Perkins explained that soulful singing is unique because it’s not performance-oriented.

“We’re not singing for anybody else,” she said. “We’re singing for this very moment, that’s what’s happening.”

This Very Moment was made possible by a $7,000 grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

“Soulful singing is very unique,” she said. “No one else I know does soulful singing. For a granting agency, they might say that it’s interesting.”

The 45-year-old Halifax native started singing when she was a toddler, thanks to a little push from her big brother.

“When I was three, my brother Tim brought me to show and tell,” she said. “He just said ‘Sing, Wendy’ and then I just sang in front of all these strangers. I was like my very own one person Glee.” Despite singing from an early age, Perkins hasn’t always been confident in her voice.

“I knew I loved to sing but there was another place inside of me saying ‘Don’t shine’ or ‘You don’t sound very good’ or ‘Didn’t someone tell you you’re too loud?’” Perkins feels that she has found her creative voice by becoming a part of a story-telling tradition.

“Years and years and years ago, stories were told by song and your history was told by song,” she said. “I feel like I’m part of that kind of long line of that creative process.”

Perkins said her new album was inspired by Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion, the teachings of a Buddhist nun named Pema Chödrön.

“I ended up writing a song for each of the meditations, so I have 108 songs based on that book,” she said. “I would say 75 per cent of the music on the album was inspired by those teachings.” With over 100 possible songs to go on the album, Perkins said she asked the people who came to her weekly singing sessions to help her narrow it down to 14.

“I basically sent out emails and talked to them at groups and asked them ‘What three songs can’t you live without?’” she said.

Perkins said one of her favourite songs on the new album is “What Am I Rushing To,” which repeats the words “What am I rushing to, what am I rushing for, slow down, and savour.”

“Personally, I love that song. It’s a message that’s never stale for me because I tend to be a person that has a lot on the go.”

This Very Moment: Inspirational Chants for Singing, Dancing and Meditation will be officially released on Sunday at Sydenham Street United Church at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

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