How often have you heard that phrase at a party, work function, significant event or just a get together? The line appears as a familiar trope in the lexicon of believable assets a participant might deploy at such a time. Of all the “join in” directives possible in a social situation, getting people to join in a song is perhaps both the most workable and most encouraged.
Of course most people can join in even if they incorrectly believe, barring medical reasons, that they can’t sing. Everyone can sing, good or not so good, the very act of trying generates a kind of social acceptance that allows for many flaws. The inclusiveness generated by it is difficult to match.
Try saying the same thing about dancing where, unless it is very structured, the individual stands out and competence, or lack there-of, basks in the full glare of a judging public. The very nature of the acoustic congress of the sing along is by comparison, extremely forgiving.
When looking at the children of today, many who leave school boasting of very few group musical experiences, we see cohorts of youth desperate for acceptance by their peers. Many are wounded by the vicissitudes of social drama or stigma and are unable to put themselves forward within any kind of group. Sadly life events have often amplified their simple shyness to the level of a pathology.
For kids like that it is difficult to imagine a safer social event, where they can perform in a completely unjudged way, than the choral experience. The choral experience of the large group is a form of therapy, both physical and mental, for all ages and for children wounded by an arc of experiences that bends towards constant condemnation due to differences, either imposed or adopted, such an experience can break the pattern of many years and open a person to a life of possibility.
There are no government funds or departments driving the establishment of private choirs, yet all over the Western world, the local choir is present and filled with happy choristers. If there was not something wonderful in participating in massed public song it would have long ago fallen by the wayside. Indeed, not only in the performance of, but in the observance of public song do we see the satisfaction and happiness of the public. Many watch as many sing and more than often slowly join in, raising the beauty of the event by the simple appeal of togetherness.
There is of course a primal urge in us to sing. Our ancestors sang in tribes huddled around camp fires so long ago that the part of our brain that deals with singing is different from that part that deals with speaking. We sang to both perhaps alloy fears of what dwelt in the darkness beyond the thorn bush barrier and feel emboldened by the tones of our own multiplicity. Were we perhaps hoping that the predators beyond may be dissuaded by the sounds of our sheer numbers or the strength of our togetherness?
We sang as early farmers and we sang as small homesteaders, city dwellers and finally as builders of the current civilization. We sang in mighty cathedrals, temples and public halls but most importantly of all we sang together. Long may it be so.