A couple of readers have asked how my singing party for my birthday went, and before it's closer to my next birthday than the one just past and I can recall nothing from it -- a hazard of adding one more year to my age -- I thought I'd mention it briefly.
So I put together a list of about 15 or so songs collected from websites (Dan Zanes has lyrics and chords for most of his songs) and books (Rise Up Singing is indeed a great book for that), made about a dozen copies, and waited for the crowd.
We ended up with maybe 12-14 adults and another half-dozen kids. After eating hot dogs and cold cuts and drinking a not immoderate supply of beer and wine (uh, that would be the adults only) in the unseasonably moderate Arizona evening, we trooped inside into the living room. There I felt a bit like a bandleader shouting out "and-a-1-and-a-2," except that my ability to simultaneously read chords and lyrics, plunk out a melody and chord lines, and actually look at the crowd is, well, if not disastrous, certainly well below that of your average bandleader.
What songs went over well? At our daughter's request, we started off with "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music, which our daughter loves and is familiar enough for everyone to join in on, even without lyrics. "Pay Me My Money Down," though most were unfamiliar with it, has a fun chorus and went over well. "Polly Wolly Doodle" is easy and familiar. I was surprised at the popularity of "Waltzing Matilda" -- it was also fun to see the recognition of what actually happens in the song lyrics, which is a lot easier to determine if you're reading the lyrics and not trying to listen to someone with a mouth full of Vegemite. And, yes, everyone loves the Beatles -- "Yellow Submarine" was a big hit.
What didn't go so well? "If I Had a $1,000,000" went over like a lead balloon. I have a feeling that nobody would have understood a tossing the macaroni and cheese reference, let alone have actually done it. The kids had maybe a 2-song attention span before they all retreated to another part of the house where they could play in peace while the adults belted out their songs.
What would I do differently next time? Solicit requests ahead of time so that everybody was given the chance to sing one song they really liked and knew. Make sure that there was another instrument there -- our guitar players couldn't make it. And even though I'd tried making the font larger in the "songbooks," I'd probably go even larger next time.
So there you have it -- in the end, we had a blast, and everyone agreed that we should do it again, sooner rather than later. The evening was best summed up by a guest who swore that she wasn't going to do any singing, then admitted as she left that "I really didn't expect to sing as much as I did." You should try it yourself. (But leave the Barenaked Ladies lyrics on the internet.)