The Sweet Pursuit

Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive

Be Subversive: Sing with Your Neighbors

8/17/2011 5:27:00 PM

Tags: community, community singing, singing, activism, war, MN Community Sings, MinnPost, Margret Aldrich

Community singing 

Community singing—gathering with a group of acquaintances and strangers to belt out songs from across the eras—was a big deal in the Twin Cities in the first half of the 20th century, drawing crowds of up to 25,000 people to local parks. Today community singing does not, necessarily, sound relevant or revolutionary. In fact, it might seem completely schmaltzy. But singing together has more political and personal impact than first impressions reveal.

Minnesota Community Sings director and activist Betty Tisel is heading up a community singing revival, reports Jim Walsh in MinnPost, and her motivations go far beyond warming hearts. “Doing this work has meant my doing less political activism, but I feel OK about this because the payoff for community singing is that people get refueled for the struggles we have to keep working on together,” she tells Walsh. Tisel continues:

If we’re going to draw others into the work of building a just, sustainable world, that world’s gotta look like a place we would also like to live in. We need joyful, local, participatory culture….This is eat local, buy local, sing local. It helps me “keep on keepin’ on,” and people who have attended the sings tell us that it helps them a lot, too.

The gathering I attended at MLK Park in Minneapolis last night was nothing if not joyful, inclusive, and connecting, and it didn’t have a drop of unintended schmaltz. The 150 people in attendance (a smaller crowd due to stormy weather, Tisel says) ranged from toddlers to the elderly, and whoever sat next to you became your newest, dearest friend. Consummately lead by Minnesota Community Sings executive director Bret Hesla and artistic director Mary Preus, we sang American standards like “This Little Light of Mine;” international songs in Arabic, Italian, Spanish, and Swahili; and antiwar songs including “Tenting Tonight,” which was sung by soldiers on both sides during the Civil War. The lyrics hold up after 150 years:

Many are the hearts that are weary tonight

Wishing for the war to cease;

Many are the hearts that are looking for the right

To see the dawn of peace.

Before the event, which was my first community-sing experience, I invited another uninitiated friend to join me. Her jaded, if good-natured, two-word reply was: Hells no. After participating with the smart, ardent crowd in South Minneapolis, I enthusiastically say: Community singing: Hells yes! 

If you’re still not convinced of the power of the community sing, watch the ever-cool Odetta talk about her love of singing with others: 

 

Source: MinnPost 

Image from Library of Congress. 

 



Related Content

‘Subsume Yourself’ and Sing

We need more sing-alongs. Before you start picturing barbershop quartets or the Utne Reader staff ku...

The Music of Birds on Wires

A film director/musician interprets birds sitting on electrical wires as “notes” on a musical staff,...

Reinventing Community Art—the People’s Atlas Project

The People's Atlas project encourages people to map their lives. What has resulted is a new kind of ...

Why Do We Stop Singing with Our Kids?

Parents sing with their children constantly when they’re small, but as they get older, families tend...

Content Tools
RSS




Post a comment below.

 

Margaret Sue Ladr
8/23/2011 3:31:30 PM
There are people all over the country who think a community sing is a great idea, and have for some time. Our organization, Revels, originating in Cambridge, MA, has been providing opportunities for community singing for the last 40 years! Check us out at www.revels.org



Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!