++SINGALONGS: 1950-2010

Being in the generation that came into their teens in the mid-1950s, I was there when rock-and-roll was in its first decade, say, 1952/3-1962/3. When the first wave of youth, those in their teens and twenties, joined the organization, the religion, I had become a member of in 1959 with the guitar as one of its centrepieces, one of its icons, I was there struggling to get those singalongs off the ground. The guitar was the quintessential instrument and it was just about impossible not to get into the guitar if one had any sense of rhythm, listened to the top 40 and wanting to utilize singing as a socializing-teaching medium.

After trying to learn classical guitar in 1962/3, I bought my first acoustic some time in late 1967 just to play top-40 songs. I think it was about October where I had been travelling-pioneering for the Canadian Bahá'í community. I gave it to an Inuit kid in Iqaluit on Baffin Island in May of 1968 after purchasing a second guitar. The kid’s name was Henry and he was in grade 3. Seven years later, and living in Tasmania, I put my first booklet of songs together for singalongs. By 1974 I had enjoyed singalongs for over twenty years, my first experiences being around the piano at home with my parents and friends some time about 1950. We had a piano until 1957 when it was sold for financial reasons.

The singalongs that evolved in the 1970s were a combination of popular folk and rock, solid gold from popular music of the past and what was then a small repertoire of songs with explicit, overtly Baha’i themes and content. That first booklet of songs was revised again when I lived in Victoria Australia, from 1976 to 1978, and several times thereafter until singalongs began to fade, at least for me, in the 1990s as I faded into late middle age. This booklet of resources reflected these several booklets of material I had put together over those years.

By 2005 I had enjoyed more than 50 years, on and off, of singalongs. They had given me and others much pleasure. But for various reasons they insensibly had begun to fade from my experience, at least my guitar-playing part. Baha’i choirs had begun to emerge; Baha’i artists were beginning to put out CDs by the late 1990s, but getting people to sing informally, even with the song sheets from my booklets, seemed to be harder than ever. Slowly but surely over the ten years, 1995 to 2005, singalongs with the guitar became rarer and rarer events. I felt as if I had done my share when in 2003 I put up my guitar on the hook of retirement and in 2005 I retired from the local choir I had been a member of for three or four years.

Then I put a booklet of songs together in 2005, probably I thought at the time, a final booklet, for those rare occasions that did arise for a singalong in the years ahead. A resource that was used a great deal, then, in the twenty years 1968 to 1988 became a rarity in the following fifteen, 1988-2005. By 2001 I had a weekly program in Launceston for half an hour utilizing some 50 Baha’i CDs; a Baha’i radio station came on-line; professional and amateur choirs were popping up all over the world. The Baha’i music scene was developing a rich and diverse base. But singalongs seemed relatively scarce for a population that seemed more intent on watching people sing than singing themselves. My own disinclination to lead singalongs had led to a new phase of community music for me. As I say, I took part in a choir in George Town once a month(2001-2005).

Then in 2008 I began to lead singalongs once a month at an aged-care facility in George Town Tasmania using mostly “songs from the sixties.” Another phase of singalongs was opening in these my middle years(65-75) of late adulthood as some human development psychologists call the years from 60 to 80. In the last three years, 2008 to 2010, I lead these singalongs on average 3 times a year with an audience of about 50 people all on their way to the proverbial bone yard as we used to say.

I have tried here in this brief statement to capture some of my musical experience in groups over some six decades, 1950-2010, and my experience playing the guitar for singalongs from 1962-2010. Youth at this site may find this historical perspective of value. What will be their story in half a century? Time will tell, eh?

Ron Price
Updated on:
April Fool’s Day
(800 words)