Cerebral palsy has not kept a determined Melanie Krishna from pursuing her musical dreams and releasing a CD. Photo by Agnieszka Ruck

Embracing the gift of life through music

By  AGNIESZKA RUCK, Canadian Catholic News
  • November 18, 2021

VANCOUVER -- Living with cerebral palsy and blindness, restricted to a wheelchair, 35-year-old Melanie Krishna does not fit anyone’s preconceived image of a singer-songwriter. But the St. Joseph’s, Langley, B.C., parishioner is not only a member of a community choir and an enthusiastic singer of hymns at Mass, she has also produced her own CD — one filled with joyous, life-affirming songs that she wrote herself.

“This has been my goal for a long time,” said Krishna of the CD, explaining that she started singing when she was just three.

“Oh yes, she just loves to sing,” Jeannette Ridley, her foster sister and caregiver.

Krishna, who was born prematurely and raised by adoptive parents, acknowledged that her long-time goal to become a recording artist has certainly faced challenges. Her cerebral palsy has led to various medical complications, and she relies on family members and caregivers to do what most people take for granted.

“I’ve gone through quite a bit because of my disability. I’ve been sick a few times. But I fight through a lot,” said Krishna.

“I’m just happy that even though I was born small, I can live through it all and just have life and live it to the full.”

It’s clear that her faith inspires her. In fact, her song “Within My Faith,” which she wrote in 2008, is about having the support of “Jesus and Mary and all the people who have been in my life on Earth.”

Two years after writing the song, Krishna began taking voice lessons. Then in 2011, she joined the 80-member Langley Community Chorus.

“She is incredibly intuitive,” said choir director Anita Comba. Krishna’s hearing is so sensitive, she can sing with the choir in “perfect timing” despite being unable to see the director or sheet music. “She doesn’t seem to be at a disadvantage at all.”

Krishna, a soprano, learns her part by memorizing songs and practising with the choir and with recorded music.

When the pandemic hit, Krishna was able to use Zoom and other virtual platforms to continue with voice lessons and choir participation. As restrictions ease, she is attending live rehearsals every second week.

When inspiration strikes and she begins to compose a song, Krishna will memorize sections of lyrics and musical phrases, then ask family members or voice teacher Liana Savard to record them.

When Savard heard “Within My Faith,” she was impressed.

“She’d never studied music, but she put together a really structured piece and really well thought out,” said Savard. “From the early stages, she loved composing as a gift for people. She writes many songs about people to show how much she loves them, treasures them.”

Not only does the music give Krishna a sense of joy and fulfillment, but Savard said it also helps her health. People with cerebral palsy face serious difficulties with co-ordination and weak or stiff muscles; learning to sing has helped Krishna improve her breathing and confidence.

Krishna released Gift of Life in the summer of 2019. It includes 12 original songs about faith, love, family and Canada, featuring Krishna singing and Savard accompanying on piano and vocals.

Krishna sings about her own story in “Letting Me Live.”

“I want people to know there is life,” she said. “People who are having babies don’t have to worry about other options because if they can’t look after a baby, they can put it up for adoption, like what my parents did for me.”

She is so convinced of the value of all children that she is donating the proceeds from CD sales to Advokate Life and Education Services, the Fraser Valley pro-life organization that runs Hope for Women pregnancy care centre.

Voice teacher Savard says there is power in Krishna’s music and her message.

“When she wrote her pro-life piece, it just was amazing to me how she put it all together,” she said. “She performed it at one of our recitals and everybody in the audience was besides themselves, totally taken aback by her and in tears.”

“We all feel really proud to know her and proud of her accomplishments,” said choir director Comba. “She’s really got some special gifts for composition and I think we all feel quite blessed that she’s such a role model for embracing life and not being held back.”

Deacon Dan Ritchie of St. Joseph’s Parish said Krishna is known as a cheerful and inspiring friend and musician. She has even been the subject of one of his homilies.

“I used Melanie as an example of character, tying it into a Gospel message of faith, hope, love and counting your blessings,” Ritchie said. “I explained to the parish what her disability was and how she suffered but yet was so grateful to God for the gift of life.”

Caregiver Ridley is thrilled with her foster sister’s accomplishments.

“My favourite song is the one about my dad, called ‘The Patience Piece.’ It’s different, funny and hits the nail on the head when describing my dad, who is a carpenter by trade,” she said.

“I hope that listeners are inspired to increase a sense of faith and hope in God in a way that Melanie has, despite all her physical adversities.”

For information on how to purchase a copy of Melanie Krishna’s CD, e-mail jridley@xplornet.ca.

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