I'm sure the traditional, once fashionable, sing along, will surface again. I wrote the following summary of my Baha'i and non-Baha'i experience of sing alongs recently. I include this summary below. I wrote this little piece and revised it several times for some internet sites and it has come to serve several purposes. I trust whoever comes upon this brief essay/posting/comment and reads a good part of it will find my words resonate with/in their life somewhat. If these few words(not few enough I hear some add!) don't resonate by, say, the end of the first paragraph, just stop reading and go somewhere else. Sing alongs may not be your cup of tea....I knew a man once who had 3 bags to make his cup of tea. Can you imagine!!
The first booklets of music in my life, at least those I remember, go back to the early 50s. But the first booklet of music that I put together myself in order to run sing alongs was in the late 1960s at the end of the counter-culture period in North America as some define that period of time. From about 1953 to 2005, a period of more than 50 years, from the age of about 9 to 60, I was involved in sing alongs in one form or another. In the last ten years, 1997 to 2007, though, sing alongs using booklets of songs I or others whom I knew-or did not know- became rarer and rarer--and eventually non-existent occasions.
In some ways it was fitting that the last three years of sing alongs in my life, 2002-2005, involved very senior citizens. I thought at the time that William Faulkner's spirit may have been present in those sing alongs. I thought, as I led these old folks in song, that the spirit he had when he wrote his now famous book "As I Lay Dieing" may just be at the back of the leisure-social-room where we had our sing alongs. For all these people all lay, sat up or palely loitered about dieing slowly. Each month that I went back to this old folks home during the three years of these sing alongs someone else had died or was on the edge. The term ‘old folks home’ was what we used to call these places for the old and dieing when I was a kid.
For these last sing alongs in my life, at least to this point in time, the year 2007, I used published songbooks whose content was mainly for a generation born in the first quarter of the twentieth century the earliest years of Baha’i activity in Australia, the religion I have been associated with more than 50 years ago. There was material in my one remaining sing along booklet for all age groups, but I never used it, well, only very rarely for the sing alongs here with very senior citizens in George Town. We used publishing company booklets with glossy covers for the sing alongs. Incidentally, George Town is the oldest town in Australia and so it is fitting again that what very well may be the last ray of light on the mountain top of sing alongs in my life has taken place in this town at may also very well be the g-spot of this island comunity I now call home. And it may be, too, a g-spot that few if any ever find and I can enjoy the pleasures of musical silence.
There is no material in my sing along booklets that originated from about 1977 to 2007. The group of humans born in the years after 1970 I have never tried to cater to with songs that came on board in those years. Their musical experience was, for the most part, not mine. My ears, it seemed, had moved on or out or over--or perhaps "back" is the most accurate word. I had moved back to jazz, classical, the top-40 from 1945 to 1975. The only radio-station here in this old town and whose sound I receive on my very old radio with a clarity denied to all other sources plays only top-40 from that period. Period piece music for a period piece person I sometimes think. I did not listen to the music of the generation that was 5 years old in 1975 and 37 this year, at least not much. I did not listed to their music enough to be familiar with their songs and their lyrics and certainly not well enough to sing them in groups informally in the Baha’i community and/or in any other communities of which I was a part of as a teacher in primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions--or, indeed, any kind of institution or non-institution.
But the resources in my personally prepared, tenderly fostered, oft-repeated and used to the point of utterness are here in my files, my collections now kept tightly held together with a big rubber-band for a future time when, and if, sing alongs ever return to my life and to the groups I am involved with as I head into the middle years of late adulthood and, finally, old age. Old age begins, say some human development psychologists, at the age of 80. I've come to like that model since the 1990s sometime for it gives me, now in 2007, another 18 years before I'm actually, officially, or shall I say psychologically, old.
I have multiple copies of what I have come to call ‘secular song booklets’ for those not familiar with the Baha’i musical experience, for the students in classrooms I once had when I used to teach and for other groups who were notin classrooms with whom I used to sing . I have many editions, too, of song books in multiple copy form that I made for Baha’i groups, as I say, as far back as the late 1960s. I’m sure that these musical experiences called sing alongs will one day return and, when they do, I will be ready with my little bag of tricks. Who knows when and who knows where!
My wife and son became a little tired of hearing the same old stuff back in the 1980s and 1990s. For I need my song sheets; they have been my bible, my crutch, my only hope of ever generating a sing along: everyone with the same pages, the same words, the same everything---well--as samey as one can get, as one needs to get and, indeed, must get, if the folks in the group are ever to sing at all. As my wife and son moved around Australia with me, again and again they would hear--in halls, in homes, in a strange assortment of places-- the same old stuff. Can you blame them for their musical fatigue?
Singing in groups seemed to become passe, perhaps even slightly declasse, in the wider society in those same 1980s and 1990s. But I’m sure such singing will return before my demise, my passing from this mortal coil. Anyway, we shall see. If I live to be old, that is to be 80, good-god the sky is the limit. This limit I may never see but then such is life.
P.S. Had a two song sing along last weekend with 40 people. There is still hope.
married for 41 years, a teacher for 35 and a Baha'i for 49