Pete Seeger “believed deeply that people should sing”

by Mr. Sheehy

[Pete Seeger] was a person who believed deeply that people should sing, in groups, with harmony, in public — and not just in church. He was a passionate director of probably thousands of pickup choirs, formed at the beginnings of performances and disbanded when they were over. That became even more true as he got older and his voice weakened, but it was true all along.

. . .

Pete Seeger understood something fundamental about humans and music, which is that many people can’t sing on key, but all crowds can. Even without rehearsal, public choirs can be stunning to listen to and thrilling to be part of. And he believed that everyone should do it, that people should retain the ability to get in a room and sing, because it was good for you, and because it taught people to pitch in and be brave.

There’s an old Weavers record where he’s leading a singalong of “Michael Row The Boat Ashore,” and — after making sure the tenors know their part — he says this: “Don’t let your neighbor look at you peculiarly if you sing too loud. You kick ’em in the ribs and get ’em singin’, too.”

From NPR’s Linda Holmes, who describes perfectly the effect of Seeger’s leading “Amazing Grace” and pairs it with the recording (head on over and listen to it). So much about Seeger’s approach to music makes so much sense, but this idea that music is participatory strikes me as one of the greatest lessons we can recall. Music is great to hear, but to make it. That is something special.

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