Performing artist Hayley Kitchener (stage name Ella K) shared her story at UnitingWomen 2018, captivating the audience with her song “Ice Cave”. Hayley, who is vision-impaired, has part-time roles as Young Adults, Families and Mission Pastor at St Lucia Uniting Church, Brisbane and assistant chaplain at QUT, and is a candidate for Minister of the Word.
How did music come to be such an important part of your life?
When I was very young my grandmother started to sing to me and the first song she taught me was “Somewhere over the rainbow”. I have memories of sitting beside her and singing and she realised that I had a voice. I became involved in choirs, eisteddfods and drama and when I was 16 had a wonderful mentor who was an opera singer. She encouraged me to go into opera, which is what I did. I did a music degree at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and travelled overseas.
I left the music industry for a while to focus on studying theology, and now I am getting back into it, writing and singing contemporary music. I’ve just signed a new contract and will be releasing a Christmas EP this year.
What is the story behind “Ice Cave”?
I went through a challenging time in my life a few years ago and the song came out of that. I’ve often equated rain and storms as a metaphor for difficult times, and as I started to put the accompaniment and music together, the words about sitting in the darkness (because I can’t see, and that’s darkness too) listening to the rain just came to me.
When I listened to the song after I’d recorded it, it actually sent me a message: you can sit here in this ice cave of reality, which is a metaphor for “in this dark place”, or you can make the choice to get yourself out of this situation. That was the turning point, and I began thinking, how can I help others to find light and warmth?
Most of us are afraid of the dark. I grew up very independent, and apart from getting a few resources here and there, I was pretty much integrated into the sighted world at a young age. But you know what? I’m afraid of the dark too.
I’ve lived with darkness all my life and I can’t say that there aren’t times when I am afraid—but that’s not always because I can’t see. Life throws challenges that cause us fear, but it’s about what we do with that fear, and how we use it.
What does re-discovering the wonder of Christmas mean to you?
Re-discovering wonder is re-discovering who you are, who you are created to be. I believe that God created us to be glorious and wonderful, and a big part of my journey has been rediscovering who I am. I feel called to make a difference in the world, to empower others and to bring healing and hope.