I can’t believe I’ve come this far and never participated in a Sing-along Messiah. In the first half of my life I spent many years in choirs and loved being surrounded by the swell of voices singing different parts. The fact that I was second soprano might be responsible for my love of singing harmony (that and the Beatles).
I have enjoyed performances of the Messiah in years past but this was a completely new experience. As my adventures at open mics and song circles have always affirmed, there is nothing quite like participating.
So this is how it went: At the door I was given a score of Handel’s Messiah. There was a small chamber-sized orchestra at the front and everyone was seated according to their vocal parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). I was thankful to be surrounded by strong singers. It allowed me to drop out every so often when my sight-reading or note-finding abilities lagged behind, then join in when I could. This was good since I hadn’t had time to do much preparation or practice my part in advance.
It is the time of year when we dust off our favourite Christmas themed songs, the ones we don’t sing the other 11 months of the year, and let them loose in public. Christmas carols have a way of creating impromptu ensembles out of neighbours and choristers out of usually reluctant singers.
If you are anywhere near Guelph, Hamilton, Cambridge, Kitchener, Toronto or Ottawa, here are some ideas of where to go to share in some seasonal and participatory music:
Sing along with Sam & Jane
Friday, December 14. 8-10 pm. *Holiday edition*
Magnolia Café 88 Yarmouth Street, Guelph
Reservations recommended, but not required: 519.766.4663
The usual singalong, plus a few holiday songs & carols!
Mill Race Folk Society presents Pub Carols with the Orange Peel Carollers.
“These carols are not the standard Christmas stock we hear piped into every mall; they are often more boisterous and secular in nature than the familiar fare. . .
If you would like to hear more, or better yet come out and sing along with the group, they invite you to join them at the Kiwi on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 3 P.m. to 6 P.M. Admission if Free, but donations for the carollers are welcome.”
For me, Canadian summers will always be linked to campfires: in the backyard, by the lake, at Centre Island. Our township has announced a fire ban due to the lack of rain and resulting crispy dryness of the grasses and trees around us. But I’d like us to keep the summer campfire idea alive by sharing our favourite campfire songs. Post a comment below with a silly song, a soulful one, or maybe that one that always gets everybody singing along.
It can be the highlight of the evening – when the person leading a song or at the mic brings out a song that resonates with everyone. Whether it is a call and response or an easy to learn chorus, something about the song draws people – performers and listeners alike – to join in the spontaneous choral event. What is your favourite sing along number? It could be one you like to lead or one to which you have added your voice. Share the title, the lyrics, or even a link to somewhere we can hear it.
I visited the Corktown Ukulele Jam at the urging of uke playing musical friends. Although the event is just approaching its 2nd anniversary it has a devoted following that results in 60-70 uke players coming together every Wednesday night at the Dominion on Queen.
The evening starts with a one hour workshop, led by Steve McNie, co-founder of the Corktown Uke Jam. Steve is an intense taskmaster and does not tolerate any chatting or “noodling” while he is leading the group through the strumming patterns and chord changes of a new song. He reminded me of a strict high school teacher who had had a bit too much coffee and not enough sleep the night before. But the room of ukulele devotees takes the scolding in stride – the overall ambiance is friendly and laid back, lots of regulars but newcomers are welcome.
There is a break for people to order food, drinks and socialize (desperately needed after being on our best behaviour for Steve!). Next is an open mic – for which you are encouraged to sign up ahead of time on-line (http://www.torontoukes.com/). This part of the evening is usually hosted by David Newland, the other co-founder of the Corktown Uke Jam. Other instruments may make an appearance in a supportive role (there is a regular stand up bass player and Steve provided Edith Piaf accents with his accordion) but the uke takes centre stage. After a few performances, the evening continues with selections from the Jambook: words and chords projected on the screen, a volunteer to lead, and a room full of ukuleles and voices brings it to life.
One regular attendee is Heather Katz, owner of Broadway Music in Orangeville. She’ll often arrive with uke accessories, music books, and could even bring along a uke for you to try if you get in touch ahead of time. This week she gave us a beautiful performance of “Imagine” to honour the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.
Come early to get a seat as the place often fills up – besides, that will give you time to eat supper there, and the food is good. I’ll leave you with the benediction said by all participants at the end of the evening, ukes held over their hearts:
On earth we strive for earthly things
And suffer sorrows daily.
In heaven, choirs of angels sing
While we play ukulele.
[Corktown Ukulele Jam, Dominion on Queen, 500 Queen St E, Toronto, every Wednesday 8-11 pm]