When We All Sing Along

Submitted by Anonymous on March 24, 2011 - 1:59pm
Finding community in a concert hall

Hi there! My name’s Joanne, I’m new to this community and this is my first post. I spend a lot of time thinking about my neighbourhood, my city, and the world I share with friends, family and strangers. A recent event made me take an even closer look at how I spend my time and with whom I choose to spend it.

I live in Toronto, a large city by any standards, but it’s been home to me for a long time. I grew up in small towns and, later, the suburbs; I went to university in Guelph. I’m fortunate to be able to say that I have friends from almost all stages of my life. But that doesn’t stop me from being amazed by those moments of unexpected community.

Last week I went to see a band (I do that a lot) comprised of members of numerous independent bands from Athens, Georgia who have all released music on the Elephant 6 record label. Some of the people are also involved in building a sustainable community called Orange Twin, but that’s another story. Anyway, it was a special night: three hours of joyous, imaginative, heart-wrenching music (depending on the song) made by people who love music, who are moved by art.

I’ve been listening to these bands since the late-‘90s and, despite living in a different country and not personally knowing anyone involved, they feel like an integral part of my community. They symbolize the independent, Do-It-Yourself (with your friends) spirit that seems harder to find in these days of internet-fuelled instant gratification, where anything can be found/made/bought at the click of a mouse.

Along with music, one of the musicians told fantastical stories, and there was an audience participation game; it wasn’t a typical concert where people stand with arms crossed and watch in silence. To end the show, the band paraded through the audience while singing a song by the jazz artist Sun Ra. It’s called Enlightenment and here are some of the lyrics:

The sound of thought is enlightenment

The magic light of tomorrow

Backwards are those of sadness

Forward and onward are those of gladness

Enlightenment is my tomorrow

It has no planes of sorrow

As the audience and band intertwined and made eye contact, with everyone singing these uplifting lyrics, a feeling of hope rose in me. A belief that, in spite of our differences, this room full of people - numbering around 500 - can share one magical moment of pure happiness; a certainty that, if we choose to make it happen, the future can contain gladness and enlightment.

shall we dance

Hi Joanna,

thanks for a great blog. i am a writer, which is a fairly internal and solitary pursuit. i have always wished to be more musical so that i could jam with other musicians in moments of spontaneous interaction and also bring that kind of energy and community and joy to people. i have performed (dance) at many folk fests and always marvelled at how everyone really comes together - dances, sings, cleans up the mess - in a unique way.

it's also noticeable travelling in countries where people sing together while they work. imagine how different it would be in canada to walk down a street and have the construction crews singing together! it really is a powerful tool. and as well as building commuity at music events, adding music to community events is a great way to increase the sense of coming together.

thanks again for sharing. hope you will continue to blog your thoughts.

and in a personal aside - i did join a choir recently (a very fun all women punk rock choir) to get going on my goal of being more musical.


Music building community

Hi Joanna, thank you for your post.  I think you have touched on something special: the power of music to bring people together across barriers and create a communal bond even with complete strangers.  I have felt it at concerts too, particularly when the band interacts with their audiences.  The one place that I think this idea of community through music is most obvious is in a church, at least in the tradition I grew up in.  Music was a key part of every Sunday service and was something that brought us all together. 

With the decline of the church where can this music community be found?  How can we use music to build community? 

Hi Derek, Thanks for your

Hi Derek,
Thanks for your response. Having not grown up in any church, I never (apart from attending the occasional service with friends or family), I never really experienced music in that context.

However, I think any time people come together in song, it grows connection. I'm privileged to live with a musician and we often find ourselves singing along with the radio or just singing a song we both love. He's a better singer than me, but I don't let that stop me. I guess that's the thing, singing for the joy of it (like dancing or running through a field) is a moment when we let our guard down; when we let the experience speak for itself and fill us with happiness. If we can share that with others, well that's better still.

oh, and psst... my name's Joanne (no A at the end) :)

Campfire Songs and Christmas

Campfire Songs and Christmas Carols. When we got married we thought it would be nice to end the service with everyone singing together and the only songs that we could think of that all the branches of our large family would know were Christmas Carols. Alas - it was July... We should have opted for the campfire songs!

Singing at weddings is a

Singing at weddings is a wonderful thing. When my friends were married two summers ago, it was outdoors and there was a short summer shower toward the end of the ceremony. As was planned, after they said their vows, the bride and groom led the guests in singing the Beatles "Here Comes The Sun". It was made all the sweeter when the rain shower stopped and the sun came shining through the clouds.



Thanks Joanne! It's funny

Thanks Joanne! It's funny the way that something as simple as a few words set to  a tune can bring us all together. I too am a lover of live music and heading out to see bands play and dance to the rhythms is one of my favourite pass times.

It's funny - I had one favourite spot that I used to frequent (to the point that they had my regular bevvie waiting for me when I'd arrive on Sunday nights) and did always feel a part of something great. There was definitely a feeling of community, I knew the staff and the band and could always count on having a wonderful time. But what this also reminds me of is the communities we are a part of without our own awareness.

Years later I was at a friend of a friend's ugly sweater party around Christmas time and was stopped by a shout when leaving the loo. "Hey!" I heard as someone tapped me on the shoulder "You're the dancing girl! You're the dancing girl from Sunday night's at (insert venue's name here)! You were always the first on the dance floor and I thought it was so great because I'd never have the courage to get up until you broke the ice. Thanks so much for letting me dance away my Sundays..."

I was floored! All I was doing was shaking it to my favourite cover band but somehow I helped this woman have great nights without even knowing it.

I know I've been on her end before too - seeing people smile in the street, dad's playing princess games with their kids, little anonymous moments that make a person pause and appreciate life.

Thanks so much for reminding me of my Sunday night community and the joy that is companionship (conscious or otherwise) when its set to music...