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How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)

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GUEST,lynnoel@att.net 15 Sep 01 - 09:55 AM
Peter T. 15 Sep 01 - 10:16 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 15 Sep 01 - 10:34 AM
katlaughing 15 Sep 01 - 10:55 AM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Sep 01 - 07:19 PM
DebC 15 Sep 01 - 08:10 PM
GUEST,Aunt Nancy 16 Sep 01 - 04:20 PM
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Subject: How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)
From: GUEST,lynnoel@att.net
Date: 15 Sep 01 - 09:55 AM

Brett Burnham requested that I post this note that I sent to Jerry Epstein and the New England chanteyfolk after last night's candlelight vigil. This thread is for practical experience and set-swapping ideas on song leadership for peace in the days ahead.

************* We had five hundred or so in Waltham. They were expecting 30. I wasn't. It's a challenge with such a crowd in such a mood. Well-meaning Unitarians reading lengthy prayers and speeches in inaudible voices simply doesn't cut it, even the Prayer of St. Francis. (I will try it as a call and response next time.) We have all been listening for three days in shocked silence, and this is not what we turned out tonight to do. The people I met tonight want to DO, they come for collective action and collective expression, and mutely holding a candle isn't enough.

There was spontaneous singing of Let There Be Peace On Earth and My Country '''''Tis of Thee, and you could hear scattered chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" This was energy that was going to go one of two ways, outrage ready to be channeled or to flood into rage. They want a focus. That's why we came.

About eight of us were ready with This Land Is Your Land, which let the flags wave and got a cheer and candles raised on high. Dona Nobis did not catch, and a man in the front row asked what language it was in. Amazing Grace worked, when someone started it softly; I lined out the verses at the top of my lungs. Five hundred people and no sound system. This is for what God gave me a loud voice. We had a request for We Shall Overcome, which I also lined out. Two kids sang Eli, Eli in Hebrew, which went over well, and kids led the National Anthem several times. I turned down two requests, one for Yankee Doodle Dandy and one for the Battle Hymn of the Republic, as not in keeping with a peace vigil. Both women thanked me. The organizers led the Lord's Prayer, first in English and then in Spanish. To close, Jan Maier started He's Got the Whole World In His Hands, which got a lot of people singing.

Here's what I learned tonight--nothing one doesn't already know, but practical experience bears repeating. I hope it may be of use to my fellow song leaders in the days ahead.

Pick stuff they know. They come to speak out, not to listen. If you want to perform, get on the radio or go busk on a corner. Vigils and gatherings need to be active chorus, not passive audience. Don't bother with printed words. No one has a hand free at a candlelight vigil. If you've never lined out verses, now is a good time to start. Call out EVERYTHING and let them sing it with you. Don't sing more than three verses of ANYTHING, even if you're lining it. Repeat the chorus two or three times. Most peace songs, prayers, and hymns are too wimpy, too slow, and too draggy for a huge group. Rhythm and repetition are what people need right now. Bring the loudest voices you have, but use them respectfully. Sing, let others preach. Call the organizers first if you can, but step right up to the middle anyway. Every vigil needs all the song leaders it can get. Once you've led a song, go stand next to anyone who starts something. You bring the focus with you. If you're squeamish about flag-waving patriotism, as I am, go with it and then expand it. Have a world-focus song like He's Got the Whole World in His Hands or We Shall Overcome, ready to cap a flag-waver. Remember, patriotic songs and Christmas carols are all most people know. Remind people that tolerance and diversity are patriotic American values. "E pluribus unum--from many, we are one. We welcome Arab-Americans and Muslims to our circle tonight as our fellow Americans." If it doesn't have a chorus, save it for when the crowd is dispersing and you are gathered among yourselves. We did How Can I Keep From Singing and John Ball. Balance the program as much as you can on the fly--sing fast, then slow, fast, then slow, and alternate 3/4 with 2/4 or 4/4. This releases the gathered energy while keeping it under control. Two slow waltz-time songs, and the people in the back who can't hear will start chanting. Two patriotic marches in a row, and you may have a jingoistic mob on your hands. Pay attention to tempo and time signature--it's very effective.

Go sing at every vigil and gathering you can. We need all the leaders we can get. Let's show each other the power and the strength in peace. -- Lynn E. Noel 14 Waldo Road Arlington, MA 02474 USA 781-643-5747 home 978-985-2707 mobile lynnoel@mediaone.net http://lynnoel.home.att.net


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Subject: RE: How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Sep 01 - 10:16 AM

Thank you for this note. This is really, really fine. I am leading a prayer event next week -- non singing (though some chanting) and while I know some things, I have already learned a lot from this note I hadn't thought about. I think the part about who has the focus and how it moves with you for a few moments afterwards is something I had not thought about, but is absolutely true -- how do you hand on, who does it, is there a "vigil leader (is there a term people use? can't be "vigilante" (joke)) . I would underscore the need to keep people talking at other people to an absolute minimum: though testimony is of course different (sharing, not preaching). I would be interested in how people with experience think about the balance between spontaneity and formality. My experience is people do find some comfort in structure, as long as it has open spaces in it; but of course vigils have all kinds of lengths and rhythms. We have lots of people here with experience of keeping mass sessions going, it would be great to get their input.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 15 Sep 01 - 10:34 AM

Thank you, Lynn- I couldn't have said it better myself. We have very divergent moods in this country at this time and my hope is that our music can unite us, not divide us further.


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Subject: RE: How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)
From: katlaughing
Date: 15 Sep 01 - 10:55 AM

Excellent, Lynn, thank you so much. Really well put.

kat


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Subject: RE: How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Sep 01 - 07:19 PM

Sounds like you're doing it right. And it must be tricky with a crowd that stretches right across the community - there are songs you'd be itching to sing that might not fit. (Like Solidarity For Ever)

There are songs that sound like they must be old hat and so forth that could come into their own on such an occasion, songs like Michael Row the Boat and If I had a Hammer. And We shall not be moved. People should know them.

Deep Blue Sea they might not, but it'd be easy to line it.

I'm not sure about never sing more than three verses, sometime people just want to keep on singing when they've got into it. I mean the kind of songs where one line or one word changes each time, for example.


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Subject: RE: How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)
From: DebC
Date: 15 Sep 01 - 08:10 PM

I have to chime in here...I was with Lynn and the other members of Lingua Franca and Lynn did us all proud. She really took the reins and lead everyone in song. Her voice rang out to all the people present and she called out the lyrics so people could sing along. She also spoke out in support of tolerance and encouraged people to embrace our brothers and sisters in the Arab and Muslim communities.

I was really proud last night. And I am very proud to call Lynn Noel a friend.

Debra Cowan


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Subject: RE: How to Lead a Vigil (Like Woody & Pete)
From: GUEST,Aunt Nancy
Date: 16 Sep 01 - 04:20 PM

Thanks, Lynn, for sharing what you do so well at this time when the collective "we" need it so much. We all have something to offer and something to learn. Thanks for the encouragement.


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