Holding a sing

My parents did not do karaoke. They held sings.

In college, late 1950s and on, they would have a sing. My father played guitar, they would invite all their friends, and sing folk songs. They used the book in the photograph, Song Fest, edited by Dick and Beth Best. Last published in 1955, I think.

I have no memory of the book itself. However, a friend of my father’s bound his copy in 2003 in leather. When I saw it, I searched on line and bought my own. It has words AND MUSIC and a chord progression. When I opened it, I know a song from about every third or fourth page.

My sister and I memorized the songs. We both had hundreds of songs memorized, many from this book, or from records. We photocopied a Beatles record insert and memorized all the words on a long car trip once.

I don’t know much about the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association, but there are still copies of Song Fest on line. My parents had to edit a number of the songs for two small children, since we were picking them up. They chose silly songs, “Dead Girl Songs” (Banks of the Ohio, Long Black Veil, My Darling Clementine, Cockles and Mussels) and work/protest songs. They rarely sang sentimental songs, except for lullabies. I loved to sing. We used to have reel to reel tape with my little sister singing a fifth off when she was three or four, but it disintegrated.

My father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, was a fabulous musician. He sang in prep school, in college, in choruses on the east coast, in Rainshadow Chorale from 1997 until his death in 2013. He loved Bach and the Band and loved to encourage other people to sing. He was in our Community Chorus for years, to help new singers. People must try out for Rainshadow Chorale, but Community Chorus is for anyone who wants to join and sing. After my father died, men would say, “I would try to stand near your father in Community Chorus, to help learn the part. He was so good.”

Here is one of the lullabies from Song Fest:

At the Sings, my parents would start with a song and then go around the room, asking other people to pick songs. Sometimes people were shy, but my folks were really good at getting people to sing. Sometimes we’d have multiple guitars and other instruments. My sister and I had favorite songs too!

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: karaoke.

8 thoughts on “Holding a sing

  1. curioussteph says:

    I’m not a wonderful singer, however, as a girl scout who went to a camp with a fine singing tradition, I loved sings! And I know that lullaby well!

  2. You have a pretty cool family. From my mom and dad I learned cowboy songs and I can still sing them all. The standard for cowboy songs is pretty low. I performed one in 6th grade for my solo — the teacher had sung with Mitch Miller’s choir. She stopped me in the middle of the first verse of “I Ride and Old Paint” and said, “There’s more to life than cowboy songs.” Maybe but that’s a great song. :D

    • drkottaway says:

      It is a great song! We did cowboy songs too, mining songs, work songs, one that started “In an anarchist’s cavern, so lonely and so mean, oh smell the pungent odor of nitroglycerine…”

  3. If you don’t know it, check out the book “Rise Up Singing”. It has a great collection of songs to sing together. Spiral bound so it will lie flat. Some with music, some with chords.

    • drkottaway says:

      I have it but the copies I have do not have the music! I’ve used that one for years too.

    • drkottaway says:

      Oooo, there are Rise up Singing teaching CDs, $12.00 each, ten of them. Hmmm. Wish list!

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