Group singing has long been a way to bring people together, and that still holds true today.
“Could we have a party, Mom, please?!” My son looked at me so excitedly that I felt my immediate “no” softening. My husband and son share a common love of throwing parties, so we had grandiose plans this summer of having weekly get-togethers at our house with friends and family. However, when push came to shove, I just couldn’t make them happen. Surely, though, we could manage one get-together. Thankfully, my husband had offered to host an end of the year celebration for our parish choir. This gave me some outside motivation to push past my reluctance and put my hosting hat on.
My favorite moment from that party happened towards the end. The kids were figuring out what other things they could roast in the fire pit outside (a chive and basil sandwich from the herb garden was the current favorite), and the adults were inside avoiding the mosquitos and heat. My husband pulled out his guitar and a songbook. We sang together—everything from The Beatles, Tracy Chapman, and The Clash to “American Pie” and “The Lord of the Dance.”
Looking around the room as some of the non-choir guests joined in (including me), I had to smile. It reminded me of all the memories I have of singing with friends and family in my life. Growing up, my dad and grandpa had sing-along nights regularly with their guitars. Throughout the year, I listened to my parents singing along to the CD player in the kitchen and on car trips. Of course, at Christmas we would sing carols in our living room or go around the block singing outside of friends and neighbors’ doors. Then there were the made-up song and dance routines with my girlfriends in the backyard.
Singing is an expression of happiness
There’s something about singing that seems to be so integral to being human — or at least to being happy. Try to sing when you’re grumpy or mad. It doesn’t work. And when you sing together as a group, the joy is infectious. It can also be good for your health!
I listened to the audiobook of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman last year and was struck by her description of a church service where each person stood up to sing a song of their choosing. Just this summer, listening to Little House on the Prairie with my kids, I heard Pa and his fiddle accompanying a sing-along night with his family and the new neighbor, Mr. Edwards. It seems like wherever you look, and however far back you look, singing has been a key way of bringing people together.
So, if you’re looking for a fun way to end summer on a high note, try a singing and s’mores party. Roast marshmallows in the company of the lightning bugs as the sky darkens. Add some chocolate and graham crackers. And then start singing!
“But I’m not a great singer,” you may object. “And, besides, I don’t know someone who can accompany us on an instrument.”
Don’t worry. The darkness of the summer night will give your voice confidence. Add to that the fact that there are likely to be several very decent or good singers in your group — all the pressure won’t be on you. In any case, singing doesn’t have to be stage-worthy or in tune to effectively jumpstart camaraderie and happiness. As far as accompaniment goes, if no one knows how to play a guitar, then singing to a karaoke track or even acapella can work, too.
One practical note, you might have to be judicial in your song choice at the beginning of your time together to draw people in. If you’ve ever created a playlist intended to get people dancing, and keep them dancing, you know you have to start with something popular, and then intersperse lesser known or slower songs throughout the night with lots of favorites in between.
The same is true of a song night. Know your audience. If you have multiple generations, brainstorm ahead of time a few songs that each generation will love alongside mainstays that everyone will know. A little prep work will help it flow more effortlessly in the moment. The most important thing is to have fun.
Happy singing and enjoy those last, glorious days and nights of summer!