Tuesday, July 24, 2012


At a recent music festival, with many highly-amplified professional performers, I was most impressed by a quieter, more spontaneous group singing old songs together for fun. They were on stage, and amplified, and included several professional musicians, but they allowed young children --even a 4-year old grandchild-- to take turns singing silly verses, and they all obviously loved singing together.  They stopped and laughed and re-started songs in an informal give-and-take among the singers.  As I witnessed this old-fashioned song fest, I was thrilled that such traditions continue today. 

My parents and their college outing club friends (with whom they kept in contact for decades after college) loved to sing silly old songs together. Most of the tunes were simple to sing, and in fact were well-known melodies borrowed from popular patriot songs or church hymnals, but with words changed to suit the occasion. As a kid I was sometimes amazed at the nonsense that came from their months. The laughter and smiles that accompanied the singing was wonderfully infectious.  What good times we had!

In our home in Danvers, on a bookshelf in the living room, several well-worn song books were special to us. Some were old spiral-bound copies of the songbooks used in the 1930's and 1940's.  I particularly loved one with bear paw prints walking across the cover.  This series of song books were produced by and for the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association (I.O.C.A.). In the 1960's when I was in college I bought my own copy of "The NEW Song Fest:  300 songs  -- words and music ..."  edited by Dick and Beth Best.  See http://www.ioca.org/songfest/ for more about this series of song books.  

On Sunday, while walking with my husband around our neighborhood, we encountered a porch full of adults singing songs and playing guitar, harmonica, and percussion. They invited us to join them for a while. Standing on that porch I reflected on the many different times and places I've enjoyed such informal music-making. We invited these people (mostly strangers to us) to come to our house next weekend for our annual music party with our friends.

Yesterday at the Soldier's Home in Holyoke, MA, I watched as a woman with a microphone led a small sing-along. Pretty soon she had the old soldiers mouthing the words with her. Sometimes she handed the mike to a volunteer who led an old favorite. "Take me out to the Ballgame" and "Rock Around the Clock" were sung with enthusiasm. I'm always glad to see people singing together for fun. I clapped my hands and sang along.

July 14, 2012, was the 100th birthday of folk singer Woody Guthrie. See http://www.woody100.com/ This coming weekend three generations of Woody's descendants, The Guthrie Family Reunion, will sing together at the Newport Folk Festival. I watched them (and clapped and sang along) at the Green River Festival, Greenfield, MA, on July 14th -- a special treat!

No comments: