We finally made it to the "open sing," which is co-sponsored by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW) and the Washington Ethical Society on the first Friday of every month, in March. The theme for the evening was "Animals." Quite frankly, we didn't know what to expect. f
People of all ages were scattered around the carpeted floor sitting on cushions and singing esoteric folk-songs about birds and love and death. The room was dimly lit with candles on the floor in the center. Never have I heard so many people assembled at one time in one place who sounded like Judy Collins or Pete Seeger. It was an experience.
Our plan was to just sit back and listen and, if we knew the words, we'd join in. That was the plan. However, after a few minutes the realization settled in that everyone in the audience participated, and -- they were working their way around the room in our direction!
Hastily, we inventoried our assets. Could any of us sing? No! Did we know any animal songs? My friend volunteered "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."
Frantically, we turned to my 13-year-old daughter. Did she know any songs about animals? After all, she had gone to summer camp. Would I finally see a return on my investment? Are you kidding?I had to tell my teenager that "Rock Lobster" is not a folksong.
Of course, we did have other options. We could move over to the side of the room where they had already taken their turns (too obvious), or we could make total fools of ourselves and pretend that we were singing "Old MacDonald" only to inject a note of humor -- but "Old MacDonald"?
The woman just next to us began singing a lovely song that her grand-mother had taught her (in French, of course) and we continued to try to think of something to sing that would be at least a rung above "Old MacDonald." We tried to remember the words to "Froggie Went a' Courtin'." Remember that one? But all we could remember was that this mouse wouldn't marry this frog, or, for that matter the President, without her Uncle Rat's consent. Too late. It's our turn.
My friend was just about to begin "Old MacDonald" when I sprang into action. After all, in desperate circumstances one must take desperate measures. Trying to look as calm as possible I turned to the audience to ask if anyone there could help us with the words to "Froggie." Since, we all knew, there are so many verses. It was like asking a pack of dogs if they'd like a steak. We had all the help we could want and somebody led us through all 30 or so verses. ("Folkies" know all the verses.) And we all enjoyed every one.