Monday, October 03, 2011

Sing Out!

When our kids were just wee, we had several tapes with children's songs. The tapes were called "Wee Sing..." There was a "Wee Sing America," "Wee Sing Silly Songs," "Wee Sing Bible Songs," and on and on with the "Wee Sing" series.

Many of these songs were ones I knew, and had sung as a child. Some I did not know, but had great fun learning. I learned new favorites: "Boom, Boom Ain't It Great to be crazy," and "Little Bunny Foo Foo." Frankly, I mustn't get started recalling all these songs. Remembering them brings a HUGE smile to my face, but it will distract me from my subject here.

Oh, just one more side-track. One favorite song was "Catch A Little Fox." You know the words:

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go,
Heigh ho, the dairy-o, a hunting we will go!
A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go,
We'll catch a little fox and put him in a box,
And then we'll let him go!

We would play this portion of the tape, and our daughter who was around one year old would listen intently. When the chorus line came--Catch a little fox and put him in a box, And then we'll let him go!" she would sit up, and join in merrily. As soon as the chorus was over, she went back to quiet listening. We would back the tape up again and again, and every time got the exact same reaction from her. Kind of like a wind-up doll.

So, what got me off on the subject of singing "Wee Sing" songs? Well, recently I attended a church meeting. NO, no--we did not sing "Wee Sing" songs--but we may as well have. The entire church was filled, and hardly anyone used the music. Instead, the words were projected on a screen, and people dutifully read the words. Hardly anyone bothered to sing harmony, or even knew that such a thing existed.  What a let-down.

Now, I confess, if there's something I really enjoy it is singing in four-part harmony. But, if Coke ran that old classic commercial today--I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony--the words would have to be changed.

We are losing--or maybe have already lost--our ability to sing in public. Certain styles of popular music seem to avoid melody at all costs. Televised singing contests, a la American Idol, have elevated harsh vocal performance to an art. I have a friend who teaches voice, and invariably when she gets new students, there's always someone who wants to sing "like they do on American Idol." My friend patiently explains that that's not singing. 

One of the most popular television shows, when I was a college student, was Hootenanny.  OK, you can follow the link and figure out my age...  This show aired on Saturday night.  It was practically required viewing on campus.  Admittedly, in the early days of television, there were very few places to watch it.  So, the college student lounge was a natural gathering place.  By acclimation, Hootenanny was the show of choice.  (And, on Saturday mornings, it was "Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Sigh, the good old days.)  Hootenanny featured many groups who did nothing but sing, sing, sing.

Think of the times now that we do sing together in public?  Don't include church.  And what do you get?  Maybe, if you attend a sports event, you sing the National Anthem--and just hope that someone isn't butchering it in the process.

I can think of a song for almost every occasion.  It doesn't take much inspiration for me.  A day without clouds?  "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" or "Blue Skies, Smiling at Me."  A cold gloomy day "Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful."  And so on.

I don't really know how to revive singing.  But, I think we've lost something very special.  Maybe we could start by using songbooks instead of projection screens.  We could skip watching "American Idol" and go instead to a sing-along concert.  We'd better hurry--soon, no one will remember what songs we had.

Sing out!


Anonymous said...

My nephews had Wee Sing Train . . .and my kids loved it too. We all kept it at my mother-in-law's by mutual agreement. If it lived there, then it was special (and we heard it less often). The songs made me crazed . . . just couldn't take it. If I think too much about it, they'll get stuck in my head which I don't want -- at all.

Anvilcloud said...

I love to sing although I could never do harmony. Sadly, it's now seen as an art only for the accomplished (by someone's view, at least). In general people are embarrassed to sing now.

Peruby said...

Never heard of the children's songs you mentioned. :(

I do have the coke song on my CD in my car and listen to it often.

I love Peter, Paul & Mary and Simon & Garfunkel for harmony.

How about The Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" - harmony AND A Cappella!

And one time I was singing along to The National Anthem at a sports event and the singer stopped dead in the middle of the song and changed keys! Changed keys right in the middle! Holy cow! He must have realized he'd never hit that note coming up at the end. LOL!

possumlady said...

Well, I was part of a singing group in high school, the Triple Trio, so not quite 4 part harmony but we were pretty darn good.

Does anyone go to parties were people sing together standing around someone playing a piano anymore? For me it has usually been a Christmas party for that to happen. A few years ago I was at a neighbor's house for a small Christmas gathering and some carolers came by. We invited them in to get warm and have some mulled wine. Then we all sang together for a while. They even sang my request O Tannenbaum--in German!!

NCmountainwoman said...

When you wrote "sing-along" I immediately thought of the old Mitch Miller show!

I agree that in many places the art of singing is lost. It is, however, alive and well in our community. Our community chorale hosts sing-along concerts with various themes such as patriotic sing-along for Independence Day. We go Christmas caroling in large groups and drink the Christmas spirits afterward.

On a personal level, I still sing along with my iPod, especially when I am listening to my "housekeeping" playlist. Fortunately there is no one else around except for the dogs who graciously ignore my singing.

Beverly said...

I love your post and wholeheartedly agree with you. My father-in-law was a choir director for years, and he dislikes SO MUCH singing the songs off the wall in church.

We have two services, a traditional and a contemporary. Even in the traditional service, the words are projected on the screen. Hymnal numbers are provided in the bulletin, but I don't think anyone uses them. In our contemporary service, new songs are used that are not found in hymnals, and most of the folks stand and listen while the praise team sings them...not my favorite way of doing it.

I learned how to sing alto years ago by standing by a lady who sang that part, and I followed closely along in the hymnal as she sang. I did have some knowledge of music, however.

I sing in Sweet Adelines, which is barbershop style. We learn our four-part harmony and sing with no accompaniment. It's fun and challenging at the same time. I recommend it highly.

troutbirder said...

What a great post on a somewhat depressing point. I do recall those childhood songs particularly as I was learning to play the piano. Particularly "A hunting we will go." In any case public singing is disappearing. I don't know American Idol as I'm not a TV watcher but in my mind the yelling and screaming of so called rap "music" may also have something to do with it... :(

Ruth said...

I agree with you whole heartedly. Our kids don't even sing in Sunday School any more but they watch music videos. We have a sing-song every Friday at the hospital- 2 hours of requests with a band of volunteers who play their instruments by ear. The patients love it! But in a few years no one will know the old sing-along songs.

warriormom said...

I'm a bit late joining the discussion here! I grew up the youngest of 5 and learned how to sing in harmony in a station wagon with the windows open and no radio. Mom sang alto, Dad bass, and the rest of us found our voice anywhere it fit. My Dad must have sung some melody or it was passed around the car. Our church choir is dwindling because it seems so few know how to read music or sing anything but melody! Very sad.

Climenheise said...

I enjoy singing, as you know. Grandfather John passed that on to several of us. Choirs still sing on the prairies. Our church choir took a hiatus a few years ago, but just re-formed with a new (young) director and several just out of high school members. I don't mind singing off the wall -- at least then people don't sing into their laps -- but I would be happy to see all four parts projected and not just the words. The biggest problem is people who say, "I can't sing" -- I always think back to Zimbabwe and listening to several hundred people (many of whom would have said they can't sing -- alone) singing out together with power and delight.

KGMom said...

@ Daryl--one reason I really enjoy my church meetings is the lusty singing. And, that also is why it drives me nuts to have "praise" music creeping in. Give me four part harmony ANY DAY over monotonous minimal note range unison singing.