Apparently breaking into song in random places can be taken as a sign of mental instability. I’d say there were plenty of other alternative reasons, from noticing good acoustics in a room, healthy self-expression or just letting your ‘earworm’ out. My colleague was discussing how a pupil starting singing during an unrelated lesson is perhaps a bit odd, and I suppose it would be disruptive for the rest of the class. But as someone who generally enjoys and appreciates singing, I find myself encouraging, offering and seeking out more opportunities to have a sing. I think it’s good for the soul.
One recent earworm of mine has been a couple of lines from Brahms’ German Requiem which we are learning at my work choir. There’s a line about being patient until we receive the morning rain and evening rain, and both occurrences of ‘regen’ or rain last for several bars of the music. It just feels like the rain is going on and on. Perhaps you don’t need to be a psychology expert to figure out why those lines of music keep coming to mind at the moment. I have read some very interesting research about why certain songs come to mind though, even before the current ‘earworm’ fad (see this summary including work by the epically named Cora L Diaz de Chumaceiro).
On Friday evening I was joined by a university friend and we went to the local folk club and saw the band Crucible perform. It’s a little daunting but an honour to be offered a floor spot when there’s a band playing that you have paid to see and whose cd you own, but we womaned up and sang two up-beat folk songs from our trusty (if slightly dusty) repertoire. It’s hard to believe we were first singing these same songs together fourteen years ago but I still love them and love singing with my friend. I did make a brief comment about how singing songs about being single is something more of a sore point now than it was in my early twenties, but the sign that I’ve got really bitter about it would perhaps be if I stop singing those songs altogether. We got some lovely comments afterwards, including from some in the band.
One of the nicest compliments in a folk club is when everyone joins in with you singing. Some choruses can sound fantastic with multiple layers of harmony and I enjoy it when performers encourage and thank the audience for their participation. I guess it’s not always a compliment – sometimes people might join in to try and drown you out, or just because they like the sound of their own voices. I do feel a tension sometimes between wanting to join in and wanting to hear the performers properly, and I have witnessed awkwardness at some gigs where people have complained that they can’t hear the music above the audience member bellowing in their ear. I don’t want to be that annoying person and hope I generally contribute something positive or tone it down enough. This is when being actively invited to join in or harmonise feels like having clear permission; I’ve been delighted that Martyn Joseph has appreciated my particular harmony in his song ‘On My Way’ at a couple of gigs where I was sitting near the front.
Karaoke or Singstar parties are another favourite of mine for getting people joining in, and we had a wide range of performances at my birthday do yesterday. Perhaps you can most easily get away with it if it’s your party, but I tend to join in with everything, whether I’m on the mic, sitting watching or a way away making drinks in the kitchen. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I was very impressed at how many people were prepared to have a go at singing something with very minimal persuasion. Honestly, I just invite people to sing if they would like to sing. I don’t push anyone to sing if they don’t want to do so, really I don’t. And not just because I would get fewer turns!
My weekend of singing concluded (I think, the night is young) with Nigerian flavour worship at church which was exuberant and good fun. I didn’t know some of the songs at first but the repetition helped to get the hang of them and there were some songs I really liked. Isaiah shares a prophecy about the wilderness and desert blossoming and rejoicing – one version says “The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!” I’m not sure how the heavy rain over the last few days will affect the spring flowers here but I’ve seen amazing footage of deserts coming into bloom in the past. In the linked clip, David Attenborough is his usual calming self rather than bursting into rapturous song but I think you get the idea. Jesus said that if his disciples stopped singing, the rocks would cry out. And while I quite like the idea of listening to the rocks singing, I’d probably still try to find a harmony line. Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time…