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Reading Lyrics vs Memorization

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Joe Offer 03 Apr 14 - 01:52 AM
Howard Jones 03 Apr 14 - 04:10 AM
GUEST,CS 03 Apr 14 - 04:32 AM
Joe Offer 03 Apr 14 - 04:39 AM
DebC 03 Apr 14 - 04:54 AM
Nigel Parsons 03 Apr 14 - 05:12 AM
Leadfingers 03 Apr 14 - 05:21 AM
GUEST,Grishka 03 Apr 14 - 05:36 AM
GUEST,CS 03 Apr 14 - 06:30 AM
sciencegeek 03 Apr 14 - 07:18 AM
GUEST,Grishka 03 Apr 14 - 08:04 AM
Jack Campin 03 Apr 14 - 08:22 AM
Dave Sutherland 03 Apr 14 - 08:24 AM
breezy 03 Apr 14 - 09:00 AM
Vic Smith 03 Apr 14 - 09:07 AM
Cool Beans 03 Apr 14 - 10:00 AM
Mr Happy 03 Apr 14 - 10:35 AM
DebC 03 Apr 14 - 11:27 AM
GUEST,Tony 03 Apr 14 - 12:07 PM
Musket 03 Apr 14 - 01:31 PM
Deckman 03 Apr 14 - 01:33 PM
Lighter 03 Apr 14 - 01:43 PM
GUEST 03 Apr 14 - 02:05 PM
Stewart 03 Apr 14 - 02:09 PM
johncharles 03 Apr 14 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,mg 03 Apr 14 - 03:31 PM
Stewart 03 Apr 14 - 03:52 PM
Joe Offer 03 Apr 14 - 06:11 PM
Deckman 03 Apr 14 - 06:41 PM
GUEST 03 Apr 14 - 06:50 PM
Stewart 03 Apr 14 - 07:14 PM
GUEST,Howard Jones 03 Apr 14 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,Malcolm Storey 03 Apr 14 - 08:10 PM
michaelr 03 Apr 14 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,airymouse 03 Apr 14 - 09:34 PM
Joe Offer 04 Apr 14 - 03:21 AM
Howard Jones 04 Apr 14 - 05:20 AM
GUEST 04 Apr 14 - 12:14 PM
dick greenhaus 04 Apr 14 - 12:28 PM
Bonzo3legs 04 Apr 14 - 02:23 PM
Crowhugger 04 Apr 14 - 02:55 PM
Joe Offer 04 Apr 14 - 05:54 PM
Crowhugger 04 Apr 14 - 06:20 PM
Stringsinger 04 Apr 14 - 07:15 PM
Joe Offer 04 Apr 14 - 08:05 PM
Stringsinger 05 Apr 14 - 08:48 AM
JHW 05 Apr 14 - 12:41 PM
folkwaller 05 Apr 14 - 01:09 PM
Crowhugger 05 Apr 14 - 01:48 PM
DonMeixner 05 Apr 14 - 03:39 PM
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Subject: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 01:52 AM

I was invited to an invitation-only singing weekend, and I sent my $250 in to attend. After I signed up and paid my money, I received the following message:
    We'd like to discourage folks from using "Rise Up Singing" or similar song word books. If you have a song or two you're dying to sing, and aren't sure of the words and want to stick a sheet in your back pocket for security, that's fine. But we'd like to avoid having people flipping through the pages of a book (or smart device) looking for what they're going to sing next while someone else is singing.


My response:
    I'd like to say that if I had known of this restriction before the weekend, I wouldn't have attended. I have trouble memorizing lyrics, so I have to depend on something. I try not to be distracting when other people are singing, and I like to think I'm quite polite. I have some songs committed to memory, but I like to do songs that are new to me or more interesting for one reason or another.
    I can sing camp and church songs from memory forever, but I don't want to do that.

    I realize that this is a "hot issue" and many people have objections to the way people choose to sing, but I tend to think that sort of attitude is intolerably snooty.


Yeah, it's really nice if people can memorize every song they sing, but it just doesn't happen all that much any more. I think I'm a pretty good singer, and I do know a lot of songs from memory - church songs, camp songs, Christmas and Fourth of July songs, Peter Paul and Mary and Simon & Garfunkel Songs, and a lot of other songs I wouldn't sing at a traditional song gathering. I'm constantly learning new songs, but I'm ready to sing them for others when I have the melody down - I don't wait until I have the lyrics memorized. And for that matter, I learn lyrics best after I've sung the song for an audience a number of times. Even then, I like to have something that will tell me the first coupla words of every verse.


So, I feel like forfeiting my $250 and not attending. Most of the people at this gathering know me, and they must know that I sing from song sheets, a Kindle, and occasionally a copy of Rise Up Singing. Why did they invite me?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Howard Jones
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 04:10 AM

They say they discourage it, not that it's banned. It looks to me that they want two things. The first is to discourage inappropriate behaviour during someone else's performance. The second, implicitly, is to encourage best practice.

"it's really nice if people can memorize every song they sing, but it just doesn't happen all that much any more". I find that statement very depressing. The pros and cons have been gone over many times, and there's no point in repeating them - that's not the purpose of your posting. I can only say that in my experience performances by singers who have taken the trouble to memorise the song (or play a tune) are nearly always better than those who read them.

There are exceptions, and you may be one of them. If you have genuine memory issues then you may be fully justified in using a prompt, and if you're sufficiently practiced you may well be able to deliver a good performance. However in too many cases it's simply an excuse for not making an effort, and all too often it is accompanied by a failure to properly understand the song or make it one's own.

As for your specific complaint, I think you are entitled to ask for your money back, especially as they only raised this after you had booked and that they should have known this is your practice - you were after all specifically invited. However it seems to me to be only a recommendation, and unless they are going to insist on it then perhaps you are being a bit 'snooty' yourself in responding the way you have. I can understand your annoyance though.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,CS
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 04:32 AM

While I don't think their request is unreasonable (or indeed at all "snooty"), they should have specified the kind of involvement they were hoping for from participants, before relieving you of your cash.

Agree with Howard, I'd ask for your $250 back simply on the grounds that it's evidently not the kind of musical event that you would feel sufficiently prepared enough to participate in.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 04:39 AM

Thanks, Howard.
I think there's a good chance that I have 500 songs memorized, but they're songs not suitable for a folk singaround, or they're songs everybody knows. At singarounds with accomplished singers, I like to sing songs that are new to me - and I hope they're new to the people who are listening. I find the condemnation of certain "purists" to be restrictive. If they're so insistent on memorization, I can sing the entire Peter Paul and Mary Songbook, every word of "God Bless America" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (with two melodies), and "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" (and the rest of the scores from two dozen musicals).

To me, it's enough to pick songs that are appropriate to the situation, and to sing them as well as I can - even though I may make a mistake here and there. If I have to be restricted by all sorts of snooty rules, I think that's a real damper on creativity.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: DebC
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 04:54 AM

This sounds like a boilerplate response from the organisers. It *is* distracting and impolite for people to be going through notebooks/songsheets/iPads whilst someone is singing and I see it a lot in singing sessions more and more. It's rude plain and simple and demonstrates that the person doing that isn't listening to the singer.

I know you Joe, and you *are* a gentleman. Their use of the word "discourage" is appropriate I think as Howard stated above.

I don't like rules in sessions, either. To me, sessions are community-oriented activities and if someone is using a tool to help them participate, so be it and I have no right to judge that person or question their reasoning.

Debra Cowan


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 05:12 AM

I'm with those saying the $250 should be reclaimed.

On the subject of singing from the sheet, just take a look at some of the inventive,comic,well-constructed songs we have on the 'Cat in response to "song challenges". I'm sure many of these do get public performances (I know some of mine do). As these tend to be responses to topical stories it would be pointless to hold them back until they have been memorised, when the story is no longer topical.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 05:21 AM

I have NO problem with singers who are breaking in a 'new' song at a singaround having the lyrics handy as an aid . What I DO object to is
singers holding a book like Sing Out between them selves and the audience so that they are singing at the bloody book , not to their audience .
Equally annoying is getting the book out and sorting out the song they want when they should be ready to sing - A REAL waste of time , though riffling through the pages when some one else is singing is NOT polite !
In UK , use of words never used to be at all common , though it is , sadly , a growing trend - something we seem to have borrowed from USA


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 05:36 AM

As I read the text, its message is "If you need the words in writing, please copy them to (few) sheets so that you do not have to flip through a book during the event". I agree that the phrase "if you are dying to sing" sounds condescending. "Well-prepared performances will be appreciated" would do.

Performers can be asked to sing entirely from memory if they can earn $250 rather than having to pay.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,CS
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 06:30 AM

Grishka says: "Performers can be asked to sing entirely from memory if they can earn $250 rather than having to pay."

With regards to the money, If I spent that kind of dosh on a traditional singing weekend, I would hope (indeed expect) to find myself among folk who took their craft seriously enough to practice and prepare and indeed know something about (the majority of) their material ahead of the event. I'd certainly be sorely disappointed to discover that the participants were singing un-prepped songs from mass-produced standard songbooks.

I think it's unfortunate that the organisers of this event didn't clarify the kind of engagement they were hoping to attract from participants from the start - however there's nothing "snooty" about seeking to attract and appeal to the kind of people who take their craft seriously enough to want to apply themselves to it - and who would prefer to participate with similar others.

The important thing is to be clear from the outset, not raise the bar after money has changed hands.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: sciencegeek
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 07:18 AM

the singing weekends that we have attended have been social gatherings of old & new friends... few rules other than its focus is singing not instrumentals and please listen not just be concerned with one's own next song.

Books have appeared.. and even the i phone thing. We are not as young as we were... LOL But the whole event is just a gathering... the only structure being mealtimes set by the facility.

That said... it's a social gathering for mutual enjoyment. Perhaps a message back asking what prompted the first message - since you are known to them. Was this a groupwide message?

We have a similar aversion to SingOut.. not the book's fault.

If you are still upset, then it's not going to be a fun weekend, correct? But maybe getting more info will set things right? Or at least give you a better feel for what you should do.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 08:04 AM

CS (03 Apr 14 - 06:30 AM), alright, professionals may also pay for workshops, but usually not because they are "dying to sing". We do not know what exactly Joe had read before enrolling, but from what he wrote, I cannot conclude that he had previously been deceived about the nature of the event, with the possible exception that he now has to spend another couple of dimes on photocopying.

No doubt that such an event should be described as precisely as possible before collecting the money, clearly pronouncing the requirements, but refraining from snooty remarks about those who do are unable or unwilling to fulfill them.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 08:22 AM

I doubt if Joe is a timewasting bookflipper of the type the organizers are worried about. I'd pay (though maybe not $250) to avoid them too.

Some people know how to use paper effectively and it doesn't look like they were an object of concern.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 08:24 AM

As Leadfingers says it is a growing trend in the UK to see music stands, books, iphones etc on display to the extent that it is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Should you continue to sing from memory in such company you are left with the feeling that you are being slightly arrogant in doing so.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: breezy
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 09:00 AM

sounds like a money grabbing exercise to me.

For $250 you can sing what and how you damn well like. You've paid for an opportunity to sing, so sing . Most probably no one will notice because they'll be preoccupied with their own imminent renditions.


I am pleased more people are finding singing as an individual outlet, but 'folk' songs are not always as easy as some would think. mainly because they could be somewhat lengthy and do require an element of, shall we say theatre? .

The problem is sometimes rookie singers try to impress and fall flat on their faces in so doing.

If I was paying to go to hear others perform I would be upset to find that they didnt know their songs.

I once was distracted by a kid playing on a hand held game and requested he stop it and pay attention as he was also distracting other audience memebers !!
His parents werent best pleased with me.
So much for appropriate behaviour in an auditorium I thought.
We are all educators.

Look a the singer at all times even if you are day dreaming

Ask for you refund Joe

Whose a grumpy old folker then?


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Vic Smith
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 09:07 AM

From: Howard Jones - PM
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 04:10 AM

From: Leadfingers - PM
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 05:21 AM

From: GUEST,CS - PM
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 06:30 AM

From: Dave Sutherland - PM
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 08:24 AM

to all of these. My opinion is that reading words may be all right for free singarounds or a gathering of friends but is never acceptable when an audience is paying to get in.
As for age, well perhaps there is a time to stop... but my wife and I gave a performance to a capacity audience that lasted 2 1/2 hours last Saturday, singing over 40 items without words prompts and never fluffing a word. How? Because we worked very hard indeed at rehearsing the programme. Our combined ages are 140.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Cool Beans
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 10:00 AM

As a point of pride I sing only songs that I've memorized but I would never impose that condition on anyone else. If the point is to sing, then sing from memory or sing from written/printed lyrics, especially if you're paying for the privilege.
    My big issue is with time hogs, those folks who'll sing a 10-minute song when so many others are waiting their turn. But that's a whole other thread, isn't it.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Mr Happy
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 10:35 AM

Joe,

If it was me, I'd ask for money back.

Sounds much like they're not the kind of folk one could be comfortable with, so my advice is don't go there.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: DebC
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 11:27 AM

If this is the gathering that I think it is, it is as Sciencegeek says: a SOCIAL gathering of folks who know each other and know each other well. The payment is for bed and meals since this gathering and others like it are usually held at booked or rented facilities.

No one is getting paid to attend and the organisers are doing this on their own time.

Debra Cowan


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Tony
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 12:07 PM

Clearly, the issue here is not reading vs. memorizing -- it's "flipping through pages while someone else is singing". I've been guilty of that, and I'm very glad to have it pointed out as an annoyance. I won't do it in the future.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Musket
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 01:31 PM

I suppose because I was once paid good money as a performer, I still feel I need to give good value, so I never sing from words anyway. No issue with those that do, just not me.

Interesting point above about asking if can be construed as arrogance to sing from memory. I'd' be buggered then. I even stand to sing (and play) where everybody else sits, (in order to read their books on cookery book stands.)

I was once asked to sing Goodnight Irene at a singaround. No problem I reckoned I could recall enough words plus wing it. The person who asked for someone to sing it looked closely at the chords I used for the first verse then spent the rest of the time writing them onto their words sheet.

So much so that they never heard me sing "Sometimes I have a great notion, to burn the shithouse down."

Mind you, the other year I paid £130.00 for a concert by The London Symphony Orchestra. Nobody complained about them having a score in front of them ;-)


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Deckman
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 01:33 PM

I belong in the camp that says books should NOT be allowed. Some years ago I quit the Seattle Song Circle group over this issue. In fact, that last night, I even wrote a song about it:

"This is the song on page 17, page 17, page 17,
   This is the song on page 17,
And my book's better than yours.

This is the song on page 18 .... etc."

They were not amused ... probably because I ang it from memory ... bad bad bob


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 01:43 PM

Aside from this specific case, I'd far rather hear somebody sing from memory and flub a word or two than read from a script.

Anybody can read from a book or a piece of paper, but only someone who knows a song inside and out can sing from memory. How many "source singers" regularly depended on written-out lyrics in performance? Or, worse yet, on some editor's written-out words?

The two kinds of performance convey a completely different feeling.

Joe, if you can sing 500 songs from memory, your song memory is a hell of a lot better than mine - and probably most people's.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 02:05 PM

There seems to be some sort of mythology about memorising songs and thus significantly improving performance. In my experience a poor singer who memorises the song will still be worse than a good singer who uses a crib sheet.
john


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Stewart
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 02:09 PM

Here's my response to this - Not In The Book. I've probably mentioned this before on one of many threads on this hot topic.
Rise Up Singing is really a fine collection of songs to sing in groups, but not to be used in group singing. Does that make sense? - read my response above.

Like Deckman, above, I quit the Song Circle for the same reason.
On the other hand I go to a weekly "community sing" at Seattle's Dusty Strings music store. It is lead by two wonderful singers and instrumentalists - Kate Power and Steve Einhorn. They lead the songs and are the "house band." They have a loose-leaf notebook with many songs that they know quite well. People can use that book and suggest songs or bring multiple copies of a song they know and can lead. I usually bring a song each week, which I lead from memory. Unlike a song circle, the leaders know the songs - there is no going around the circle with people saying "let's sing that song, but I don't really know it" and everyone stumbling through a song that nobody knows. People are not leafing through a book to find a song because it is their turn. And most people who read the lyrics scan a line ahead and actually look up as they sing. It works quite well.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: johncharles
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 02:09 PM

guest above was me. Cookie lost, now found.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 03:31 PM

I'll try to make it to Dusty Strings this Sunday..I have wanted to go but it didn't seem to be on the web site or something.

Anyway, I think you are OK in asking for money back. I want to know the blue book philosophy before I ..if ever.. pay 250 for it. There is a place for everything..certainly if people love it they should do it and say that is what is planned. I have no problem ever with people using paper and have to have it myself to peek at...I find those electronics really interrupt the music because they are small and people have to stop and swipe the page etc...

So truth in advertising..if you don't want them, say so. If you love them, say so. People will enroll accordingly. If it is a social event of people who love the idea of community music, you will get a different musical outcome than if people come for the music itself and want the prettiest music possible. Yes, there is an inverse correlation between number of blue books and prettiness of music.

In camps etc. set aside a room for each, assuming there are two rooms..or have more rooms. Do not allow people to impose on the room..what happens at camps is people find the prettiest music, which is usually done by people who prefer no books, and then haul their books out, and then start passing extra books out, and then start saying let's move the chairs back and make room..no..don't do that please...and then they want the brightest flourescent lights on so they can see the aforementioned books.

And then they sing extra verses the leader does not perhaps want. And they superimpose the blue book words on top of what the leader does want.

So I think in a weekend there could be plenty of workshops promoting the use of blue books for those who love them, with other workshops not wanting them..the evening song circles are the crux of the matter though..just have separate rooms and take your preference and follow the lead of the group in a particular setting. Respect the preferences of people but you don't need to impose. Find anoher room.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Stewart
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 03:52 PM

Hi Mary,

The Dusty Strings SING is every Wednesday (not Sunday) from noon to 1pm. They also do a SING every 2nd Saturday - noon to 1pm - at Couth Buzzard Books in the Greenwood area. So please come.

Also, to Joe: I don't find your singing weekend that restrictive. It says only that they "discourage" folks from using RUS but it's apparently okay to have a slip of paper to prompt you on certain words or the beginning of a new verse. I think what they don't want is someone to flip through RUS and pick a song that they don't know or barely know and stumble through it. I don't think you would do that, would you?

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 06:11 PM

Most often, I sing in a choir. I'm pretty-well squashed in, so I usually glance at the hymnal of the person in front of me when I need to see lyrics - usually just the first couple words of a verse - I try to have my eyes on the director or the congregation most of the time. When I direct singing at nursing homes at Christmas and Fourth of July, I have a song sheet in hand, but rarely look at it - but I have a hard time getting our singers to look at the audience and connect with them, even though many have been singing the same songs as long as I have.

I've belonged to the Sacramento Family Song Circle for over twenty years, and I suppose I've become the "alpha male" of the group (I also dated many women in the group, until I got married to one of them - whom I met when the was dating the previous alpha male, but that's another story...). Anyhow, this song circle uses the Rise Up Singing songbook, and I'm reputed to know all the songs in the book. I tend to sing with the book open on the floor in front of me, just in case I need it. I'm also working (not very hard) on the committee preparing the next Rise Up Singing - and I know most of the songs in THAT book.

When I go to the Getaway in Washington or to gatherings of the San Francisco Folk Music Club, I like to sing songs that are less familiar. I like to try to ensure that the same people don't hear me sing the same song more than once a year. I also sing with a monthly gathering of more accomplished singers, and I like to try to sing one song a month that I've recently found on Mudcat. In these more sophisticated gatherings, I have usually sung from a folder of lyrics I've printed out. I pick out maybe ten songs before the session, and choose songs from that ten that fit the moment. I sometimes have to read the lyrics to sing, but often not. But I hate hearing people start a song over three times because they can't remember a verse, or quite before they've completed a song because they just can't remember - I appreciate them trying, but I don't want to be like that. So, I always carry "insurance."

Recently, I've experimented with singing from a Kindle tablet, with mixed results. Sure helps when the room is dark, though.

Yes, I like to sing from memory when I can - but it sure limits my repertoire.

If it's an invitation-only gathering, I think the organizers should invite people who are at the skill level they want, and then let them sing as they want to sing. I know most of the people who will be at this gathering and I think they like my singing. I don't see why "rules" like this should be necessary.

So, and I'll have a good time and I wouldn't dream of asking for a refund because I have to deal with these people all the time - but I resent this last-minute restriction.

But on the other hand, I hope so-and-so isn't there, the one who talks constantly while others are singing, and raises her voice so she can be heard above the singing. There oughta be a rule about that. And I sure wish she'd tune her friggin' autoharp once...

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Deckman
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 06:41 PM

JOE ... would it help you out if I offer to REFUSE TO COME, because of the rule change? Oh ... wait a minute ... I wasn't invited anyway ... bob


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 06:50 PM

Don't you just love it when somebody gets up to sing with a great big folder and then asks you to join in with the chorus of a song they couldn't be bothered learning?


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Stewart
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 07:14 PM

Joe, I sill don't see the problem. When I'm learning a new song I get to the point where I might need a lyric sheet just to glance at now and then, but I certainly don't read from it word for word. There's nothing wrong with that in my opinion. It sounds like something you do, and I don't think it would be considered a distraction or discourtesy in any singing group.

When I go to a sing or a jam I consider it my obligation to prepare in advance - learn the song at least so I can sing it with just occasional glances at a piece of paper, or play the tune through without any big mistakes (hopefully without any). But what I REALLY object to is people coming to the sing or jam without any preparation. That is a discourtesy to all the others in the group. That's why I object to the use of RUS in song circles - it allows people to come totally unprepared and then try to participate. I think that's what the group you were invited to wanted to avoid.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 07:16 PM

"I hate hearing people start a song over three times because they can't remember a verse, or quite before they've completed a song because they just can't remember - I appreciate them trying, but I don't want to be like that."

That's a very valid point. As well as discouraging the use of songbooks the organisers should also be discouraging this sort of lack of preparation, which is just as bad. And some of the behaviour Joe describes is just bad manners.

I guess what I find surprising is that people who take singing sufficiently seriously to get themselves invited to a singing weekend and are willing to pay $250 for it don't appear to think it important to learn the songs. Obviously, anyone with genuine memory difficulties is excused, but even though we're all getting older I believe they are in a minority, and in most cases using a book is just an excuse for not putting in the work. But I'm not going to give those who habitually forget words an easy ride either - they too haven't put in the work.

No one expects to pick up a musical instrument and play it - everyone understands it takes hours of study and practice to become proficient. So why do people think that singing doesn't deserve the same dedication and effort?


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Malcolm Storey
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 08:10 PM

I soon get bored ploughing through these sort of threads.

With regard to this one I would like to make two points.

1

Joe should get his money back.

2

The sort of source singers that I admired and sought to follow sang totally from memory and would find it odd not to. If they could only memorise a limited number of songs then that is what they sang.

AND WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT?


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: michaelr
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 09:23 PM

So tired of the snootiness (which is against the rules here).

My memory is not what it was. It is what it is, and I see no need to apologize. I know upwards of 600 songs, but occasionally I blank on the next line. So if I have a cheat sheet to glance at, I'll use it when needed, and all you "memory-only" elitists can't convince me that's wrong.

And what's wrong with that?


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,airymouse
Date: 03 Apr 14 - 09:34 PM

Joe,I have never had the honor of being invited to pay $250 to sing. Let me tell you how it works in my part of the world. Next Friday (Friday week as we in the South say, and also Anthony Trollope) there is a pot-luck musical house party. I guess technically it's by invitation, but anyone can take a dish and listen to the music, and if you want to "perform" all you have to do is pick a 15 minute slot over the internet. It runs the gamut. Among other things there is classical music, some old-time music, a barbershop quartet, and a few "singer songwriters". Some of it is astoundingly good, and I admit last time there was one guy who couldn't (or at least didn't) carry a tune. The same family hosts this party once or twice a year, and it is wonderful venue for music, because everyone there is there to listen, and the hosts have a great sound system and an awesome collection of musical instruments. I don't remember who had sheet music, as it did not make a difference. It's not more rude to shuffle a book of songs while someone is singing than to shuffle the Wall Street Journal. I often take a book of old songs by J. Fingers with me, because some of the songs he collected share a line or to from the songs I know. Neither of us has the "right" words. None of the old songs in that book are Finger's, none of them are mine, and I don't care how well you sing them, none of them will be yours: old songs belong to us all.
Joe I have lots of questions about your weekend. Do you all get together ad hoc and try to sing the same old song, without ever having practiced together? If so, who picks the version you sing, or is that where the book comes in?


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 03:21 AM

I'm sure the $250 goes to the retreat center that hosts the weekend. It's six meals and lodging for two nights in what is supposed to be a beautiful place. I don't think the people organizing the group make any money on it, although there might be enough padding in the budget to pay for a few people who can't afford the $250. I'm on the board of a Catholic retreat center that charges $185 for about the same amount of service, but only four meals. So I won't complain about that cost - that's what it is in California.

And the singing sessions these people have are quite relaxed, and quite supportive of the singers. There are a few people who try to dictate things toward their ideal of snootiness, but they're usually unsuccessful. So most likely, I'll sing my songs the best I can and most people will like them; and I will raise a middle finger of warning should anyone object to my right to sing as I damn well please. It's just that I think it's exclusionary to attempt to dictate how people sing their songs. I think it's better to assume that people will try to do their best, and some will do better than others.

Am I memory challenged? Maybe so. I never let anyone help me carry my groceries to the car at the supermarket, because I never remember where I parked my car and don't want to be embarrassed about that. And similarly, I don't want to be embarrassed about forgetting lyrics, so I use a notebook or tablet.

I used to go to a twice-monthly song gathering with a wonderful woman, and my friend always brought along lyrics sheets as an aid. Another woman in the group chewed her out for not memorizing her songs. The woman's husband, a well-known performer, brought "cheat sheets" with lyrics to the next session and every session thereafter, subtly telling his wife that she was wrong to jump all over my friend. And lately I've noticed the wife using lyrics sheets. Memory lapse hits all of us sooner or later.


-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 05:20 AM

Discreetly used 'cheat sheets' are one thing. Trained singers who may be able to sight-read fluently and expressively are another, although often when they are 'reading' it is a piece they have already learned and internalised. I don't have too much of a problem with this, if it doesn't interfere with the delivery of the song, although I think it looks poor. What the criticism, and I suspect the directive from the organisers of Joe's event, is aimed at are those who use use the book as a substitute for learning the song. In particular, it is the normalisation of this behaviour which I object to, because (in my experience) in most cases this does interfere with their delivery of the song.

Memorising songs isn't easy. It takes practice, but with practice it becomes easier. If you rely on reading the words you'll never get the practice and you'll never acquire that skill. As I said before, anyone with genuine memory problems is excused, but I just don't believe that applies to very many.

I also think part of the problem is that people feel the need to maintain too large a repertoire, whether its feeling they need to produce a new song every time they perform or feel that they ought to be able to perform all the songs they have ever learned. Most performers keep only around a dozen or so songs in their current performing repertoire, although which songs these are will be changed regularly. They wouldn't expect to produce one of several hundred songs at the drop of a hat.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 12:14 PM

I agree with the view expressed above by some that it's reasonable to have a crib sheet, to be referred to if necessary, especially with a song that one has just learnt; but that to read the whole thing should be beyond the pale.

As for looking at a piece of paper while someone else is performing: I am sometimes guilty of that, when I'm consulting my list trying to decide what to sing or play if I'm called on next. I often don't plan in advance, as I should, to get a shortlist of possible songs and tunes. That need not preclude a last minute choice of something else, inspired by a previous performer.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 12:28 PM

The objection, as described in the initial posting hwere was not to
using a crib sheet to refresh a singer's memory, but to the use of a song book---Rise Up Singing in particular. Couldn't agree more.
Sings where RUS is present should carry a warning notice.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 02:23 PM

Jesus Christ - if it's Ok for a professional like Richard Shindell to have his flie of lyrics on stage, it's good enough for me. Some people just like making rules so sod 'em all!!


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Crowhugger
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 02:55 PM

Joe, why not contact them to clarify? Particularly a message in writing can be taken in a very different mood and tone than written, all the more so when we are possibly self-conscious about something like memory, if I may be so bold as to suggest so. It sounds like the event is planned by a group, so it's very possible that a left hand didn't pay full proofreading/content attention to what a right hand was doing, and it may be appropriate to bring that kindly, in your inimitable way, to their attention. "I got this message that doesn't really fit with the invitation I received and accepted--I'm well known to sing with lyrics at hand including lyrics in a book, and yet this policy was sent to me after I accepted the invitation and paid up. So I'm feeing like maybe you're wanting to un-invite me but were uncomfortable saying so." Then be quiet and wait for them either to reassure you mightily or squirm in silence while they find what to say. Or put their foot in it even deeper. Whether they meant to be or not, organizers were unfair and hurtful. You will know from their response either that a refund is appropriate or that you'll be accepted and enjoyed for the performer you are.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 05:54 PM

Hi, Crowhugger - I did write to her, and got a reasonable response. I think she'll be more tolerant the next time.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Crowhugger
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 06:20 PM

Hope you'll be able to attend feeling much better about it.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Stringsinger
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 07:15 PM

Joe, this is a problem for us older people. There are so many songs in the world that I'd like to learn but don't have the time yet I can retain melodies and chords to many of them.
My problem with Rise Up Singing is that when people are singing together and have to bury their nose in a Kindle or RUS, they tend to tune out musically to others around them.

There are so many songs that I used to know but have forgotten and I require cheat sheets with sometimes just a few words to trigger my memory.

In later years, Woody Guthrie had to use cheat sheets to remember his own songs publicly.

I try to memorize as many songs as I can without looking at a reference but still, if you don't do them for a while, they get away from you.

I have friends who have "eidetic" memories and can retain lyrics, which I think is a special gift.
My thing is the music, which I have been able to retain to many songs.

Still, just as we don't want to discourage people from voting in elections, we don't want to close the door to their participation in the singing process, using RUS as a catalyst.

I think that as much memorization that can be achieved is important but allowing for
people to be able to singalong with their songs, well.....not everyone has the time to
become versed in many songs, but their role in singing should not be foreclosed.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Apr 14 - 08:05 PM

People who know me, know that I sing every song from the heart.

I do believe in singers not having their faces buried in songbooks, and I do my best to make eye contact with my audience - and I think I'm pretty good at it. I like to sing torch songs to the old ladies at nursing homes. It's much more effective without a song sheet. If you read off a piece of paper, they don't think you're sincere.

When I was a Cub Scout song leader, I had a constant battle with parents who wanted me to pass out song sheets at campfires so they could sing along at campfires. And I also had to battle the Boy Scouts organization, who wanted me to teach only songs that were in the Boy Scout Songbook.

So, it's a matter of using aids when you need them. But I also think it's important that we not put restrictions on singers when they're in a singaround. People are at different levels. If we put too many restrictions on them, they'll lose heart and stop singing.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Stringsinger
Date: 05 Apr 14 - 08:48 AM

Yes, what's really important here? Someone performing doing everything according to the arbitrary rules or cultivating interest in folk music by encouraging participation?

The very definition of folk music is the latter.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: JHW
Date: 05 Apr 14 - 12:41 PM

At a recent festival singaround a very new singer needed her words prompting several times from the audience. By way of apology she promised to come back with her words. That got me on my hind legs appealing that she rather learn them and pointing out that singers with words is relatively new to Folk Clubs and not the norm.
I was delighted that next time I heard her she sang her first song unaided and a later one with words out of sight but within reach.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: folkwaller
Date: 05 Apr 14 - 01:09 PM

We do have a similar 'problem' in the U.K. whereby performers bring a music stand spend valuable time setting it up and then proceeding to trip over it and to spend more valuable time retrieving their now mixed up music from the floor.

It was mentioned at our last club night that if a song is worth singing it is worth learning. I have a terrible memory so I don't sing.


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Crowhugger
Date: 05 Apr 14 - 01:48 PM

Possibly a more inclusive approach folkwaller's club night organizers could take, if they wished, might be to show those whose setup is annoying or open to disaster that there are more audience-friendly ways to do it. Heck, even run a workshop on it including practice runs with a timer. The club workshop's organizers can decide their acceptable time limit; I suggest more than 2 seconds to set up lyrics is too long unless you are pro enough to completely hide it in your introductory story/joke (not a joke about slow setup please). The problem can be solved with sticky tape and pre-set height for one's music stand. But obviously not everyone thinks ahead that way, else there's be no thread here!


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Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: DonMeixner
Date: 05 Apr 14 - 03:39 PM

When I pay to hear a performer I don't usually expect to see a music stand in front of them all night unless it is a choir. When I go to an open Mic I don't really mind a music stand being in use. What I do mind at open mics is people phoning ahead for a slot, get up on stage untuned and setting up a ton of effects pedals and harmonizers, playing that slot and leaving.

I'm just sayin'.....

Don


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