If you’ve been to a few jams or open mics you have experienced this: the person – usually unwittingly and often well primed with the establishment’s beverages – who sabotages the song. The person in question sings louder than the song leader, often changing the tempo, the lyrics, sometimes out of tune. Although it is usually non-malicious enthusiasm or the effects of too much “liquid courage” that leads to this behaviour it doesn’t change the fact that it is distracting and – frankly – rude.
How to manage this situation? The performer can gamely try to wrestle the song back into their own control by singing louder. A real pro somehow works a good natured comment into their banter like a stand up comic turning the joke around on a heckler. It takes a bold open stager to stop and ask to do the song without the added accompaniment, but this can put a real damper on the ambiance of the room and risk the label of “diva” being applied to the beleaguered performer.
Have you used or witnessed any elegant (or not-so-elegant) solutions to this situation? Please share your stories!
Since October, Guelph has yet another venue to satisfy the appetite for sharing music. The Two Rivers Song Gathering meets twice a month at the Army, Navy & Air Force (ANAF) Club 344, hosted by Jack Cooper and Debby Moon.
I visited for the first time this month and enjoyed the songs everyone brought – lots of originals seasoned with a few folk songs people could join in on. However, it took some dedicated powers of concentration to tune out the TV just behind me that was broadcasting a soccer game – too bad considering how great the music was. I imagine that once the song gathering becomes a longer running tradition that there might be less competition for the soundspace.
[Two Rivers Song Gathering, ANAF Club 344,32 Gordon Street, Guelph, twice/month on Thursday 7:30-10:30 pm, no cover, licensed] FYI – THIS EVENT NOW TAKES PLACE ON THE 2ND & 4TH WEDNESDAYS OF THE MONTH
Nothing like a campfire singalong to chase away the winter blahs. This particular campfire consists of a tray full of candles in the middle of a café in downtown Guelph. As the name suggests, the songs are mostly of the 2 & 3 chord variety, well known lyrics or a chorus that everyone can join in on – and plenty of CanCon (Neil Young & Stan Rogers alongside Dan Mangan & Rheostatics) This event seems to attract more than your average musicians and boasts a good range of instruments – banjo, mandolin, ukulele, trumpet all joined the ever present guitar choir.
This is the 6th year of the Campfire Sessions. Hosts Greg and Mark set the relaxed, friendly tone. Players included visitors from Nova Scotia and a lovely cameo from two of the café’s staff. This appears to be a well loved local event – the place was packed and everyone was there for the music.
Not a sleepy summer campfire, this is a high energy acoustic jam. Be prepared to really belt it out to be heard over the enthusiastic accompaniment – or sing a song the guitar players don’t know : )
[Campfire Sessions, Cornerstone Café, 1 Wyndham St N, Guelph; 3rd Sunday Nov – April; 9 pm – 1 am]
Needing an antidote to a weekend filled with minor sports and arena vibes I headed to Cambridge for the Mill Race Folk Club Singaround. The Singaround is just one branch of a thriving tree full of music events supported by the Mill Race Folk Society. Every August Cambridge draws thousands of guests to the Mill Race Festival of Traditional Folk Music. There is a concert series at Café 13 (up next is the Saturday Saints on February 24th) and English Music Sessions at the Golden Kiwi.
Although the Mill Race Folk Society is primarily interested in traditional folk music, the Saturday night Singaround welcomes any (acoustic) genres. Ballads, Beatles and blues all had their time in the spotlight with a few original compositions for good measure. Barry Cull was our host for the evening, a responsibility that has rotated through different members since the group began meeting in January 1994. The atmosphere is low key and relaxed. For more info about the Mill Race events and upcoming Singaround dates visit their website: http://www.millracefolksociety.com/
[Mill Race Folk Club Singaround, 4 Veteran’s Way, corner of Ainslie & Walnut, Cambridge; usually every other Saturday 8 – 11 pm, $3 cover]
Whatever your reason or motivation, you are now ready to take the plunge and share your music. Here are a few suggestions to ease you into that first outing.
Relax and have fun!
The hosts and participants at these kind of events are generally very welcoming, encouraging and happy to see a new face. Show up a bit early to get a feel for the room and let your instrument acclimatize (particularly in the winter).
Know your venue:
What is the event is offering/looking for? Check out the website or call the host to find out more. Be aware of the style of music featured at that venue – could be bluegrass, celtic, folk, blues, original songs or anything goes. Song circles may appreciate lyric sheets unless you are leading a very well know or call-and-response song. An open stage is often miked – you may be on your own or there could be other musicians for back-up and collaboration. If it is a popular event it might be necessary to arrive fairly early to sign up – some events even arrange the list of performers in advance.
Make sure your instrument is tuned up in advance. Preferably, do not start tuning when it is your turn as this slows down the event (minor last minute adjustments are OK). Respect the time or song limit that the host has laid out. It is great to be enthusiastic about the music or stories you want to share but “share and share alike” – others also want their time to shine.
Cultivate the art of listening to the other musicians while playing. This elevates the event from a bunch individuals playing or singing at the same time to a group of people making music together. Listen for changes in tempo. Listen for harmony potential. If you don’t know how the song goes – stop playing and listen. If a singer is being overpowered by a room full of instruments – stop playing and listen. Everyone knows that open stages are about performing – they are just as much about listening.
Jeremiah McCaw also has some good tips to pass onto open stage performers: