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  • Catherine Wynne-Paton

Midwinter humming

Updated: Feb 22

As we reached the shortest days of the year in 2023 I dreamed up a ritual to mark it, drew it and then set it in motion.

I invited a local people to come together to mark midwinter by walking through Abergavenny humming tunes adorned with and carrying glowing handmade globe lanterns.

From conception to the evening event myself and my able assistant Andrew inflated balloons with single out breaths, cut and glued and dangled sticky globules of goey, dripping things in our kitchen scooting pots and pans out of the way. We blew and stuck and hang into the dark evenings, not knowing if it might all come together in time. Not knowing if we might be rained off.

When the evening arrived, people crowded into our small living room, fixing lanterns on with headbands, by tying them onto coats... At last we were ready and ventured out, lucky the rain had abated for a while. As we walked down the road a little we were met by more company joining us on the pavement, we welcomed with waving lanterns, shared out some glowing globes and were on our way down the hill from Maerdy towards the town.

As we walked we hummed seasonal and other songs as well as improvised tunes while strolling, dancing and laughing. Along a long dark road in Abergavenny and on into Bailey Park.

Once we were in the park, a whizzing, swirling fizz of energy erupted with a sense of freedom and joy in one another’s company at this significant and ritualistic time of the year.  In the rippling chatter of many voices that followed an idea arose from my revealing that each globe was formed around the volume of a single breath.

And so, in the delicate light of the glowing globes we gathered together, took in a synchronised lungful of night air led by Naomi Keevil and each hummed a single note on our out-breath, starting together, for as long as we could.   After further experimentation, we walked on, talking and swinging lanterns as we strolled through the night, pausing intermittently with moments of shared discovery.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Midwinter Humming, to Andrew Mitchell for lantern fabrication assistance and to Josie Spencer and Sarah Price for photography.

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