This summer, a new tradition began at Wilderness – Naturalist Solveig and Guide Alison introduced us to “community singing.” Community singing is singing in the oral tradition for the joy of singing. There is no audience or performance – everyone sings, regardless of musical ability. Community singing songs are taught by rote, not sheet music, and often include layered parts, harmonies, and rounds.
In the beginning of the summer, Solveig and Alison taught the staff lots of community singing songs that many guides in turn taught their campers on trail. On base, we shared community singing songs at Sunday church, evening Vespers services, and campfires. By the middle of the summer, it was not uncommon to hear community singing songs sung spontaneously in Pinecliff or hummed along trails – Wilderness was full of beautiful music!
Community singing is fabulous for many reasons. The songs themselves are lovely. They are often short and repetitive, but full of thoughtful and inspiring messages. For example, in “One by One” by Michael Stillwater we sing “One by one everyone comes to remember, we’re healing the world one heart at a time.” Or in “Humbly” by Laurence Cole, we sing “Humbly we walk here, humbly we sing here, humbly we bless this ground / Humbly and with gratitude, remembering the ancient ones who walked this ground / Humbly we walk this ground with the spirit of blessing in our hearts.” These lyrics are especially powerful when sung by many voices.
Community singing is also wonderful because it perfectly fits the spirit of Wilderness. Community singing is all about making music accessible to everyone, regardless of musical ability, much like Wilderness aims to make canoe tripping and wilderness experiences accessible to everyone, regardless of canoeing or camping experience. The lyrics of the songs, and the act of singing together in harmony, evoke the commitment of Wilderness to community building, peacefulness, faith, and love. We are so thankful to Solveig and Alison for teaching us the tradition of community singing and we are excited weave these songs and this type of singing into the fabric of Wilderness.
-Emily Spoden, Program Coordinator 2015