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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
John C. Bunnell singaround etiquette (129* d) RE: singaround etiquette 21 Nov 21

[deep breath]

This will get to etiquette eventually, but first, the vita:

I'm in the US (born, raised, & still resident in Oregon), and I am in no way a professional musician. However: I grew up in a folk-friendly household, listening to a variety of folk & country music as well as show tunes; my brother played wind instruments in high school (jazz band), Mother played piano, and we always went to the carol-singing services at Christmas. In college, I was the lone wolf at the radio station who did a weekly folk show, dragging a bankers' box full of vinyl back and forth across campus every Sunday and closing every show with the signoff "...and remember, you too can sing along with your radio."

Somewhere between five and ten years after graduating, I came across the "filk" community - science fiction/fantasy's substrata of folk music, a great deal of it at that time consisting of alternative lyrics written to a great variety of folk (and folk-rock, and musical-theater, and other) tunes. One could find a filk circle at most medium to large SF fan conventions, and there were in my area house-filks on a regular basis. And - best of all, from my perspective - there was an explicit and clearly articulated principle that everyone was welcome in a filk circle absolutely irrespective of musical skill or talent. And that explicitly meant "welcome to perform", not just to be part of a group sing.

That principle is articulated a little less strongly now than it was some decades ago (in part because the community has both evolved and diversified, but that's a whole other thread), but it is still very much a core component of the filk world. There were live (albeit masked) song circles at the convention I attended last weekend - one in what we call "bardic" mode, in which everyone gets a turn, in order, and can either perform or choose someone else and request a song; the other in "chaos", in which performers are allowed to jump in one after another more or less at will (but it's still one song at a time, as opposed to a jam session).

Now per above, I am in no way a trained musician; I don't read music, I don't play an instrument, and while I can usually sing approximately on *a* key, I am completely unable to tell you what that key is at any given moment. What I can do - and have been doing for the aforementioned several decades, thanks to the filk community - is write lyrics and in most cases match them to existing tunes (some of which are likely familiar to most of this gallery, while others probably won't be).

I am welcome, and know I will be welcomed, as both a listener and performer in any filk circle or housefilk or Zoom filk event I might find myself able to attend. I do not sing along on verses during circles unless explicitly invited, I only sing along on choruses when I know them well enough, and I will happily acknowledge my sources whenever I've borrowed a tune (especially since many of the lyrics I write are totally unrelated to those of the source song, and thereby not recognizable as parody in the usual sense).

I've now read this thread all the way back (The Sandman's comment having caught my eye). And I must say that based on that reading, I am now very uncertain of what my welcome would be should I happen to perform in either a Mudcat "singaround" (a word I hadn't encountered before arriving here) or its live equivalent anywhere in the UK. And that makes me very sad.

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