The Goose Is Out singaround, The Mag, East Dulwich, August 12th 2012
The early evening sun streamed through the windows. The room above the pub looked bright and inviting as we helped Sue put out the tables and chairs. Nyge put some music on the CD player and stuck up posters for upcoming gigs. Gradually people arrived, putting their names down on the list. Mostly familiar faces, young and old, they smiled and bought themselves a drink from the downstairs bar. 7.30 came and went – not quite enough people to get started, but soon we had enough, a couple of dozen. The chatter subsided and our monthly singaround began.
It’s usually thought of as a folk singaround but you can sing anything you want and this evening we had a fair smattering of protest songs, comic ditties, self-penned songs, music hall numbers and traditional songs from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the USA and Canada. Some singers were solo, some accompanied themselves on guitar, dulcimer or mandolin, and others sang in pairs or got everyone to join in. At our singaround, you don’t even have to sing if you don’t want to.
Flubbing notes, forgetting words and singing off-key were common, but it was all treated with good humour and appreciation. No-one was there to show off, but just to share their love of a song or two. Some singers and performers were clearly more accomplished than others, but it didn’t matter – it’s only a singaround.
Half way through the evening we had a break to recharge glasses and I walked downstairs, ordered my drinks and turned to watch the big screen on the wall as I waited. Ray Davies was singing Waterloo Sunset on an impressively large and brightly lit stage – the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. A scattering of people in the bar were watching silently. I started singing along quietly but got a glare, so I shut up.
Back upstairs the singaround continued until after last orders and we said our goodbyes till next time. As we made our way out downstairs, the same locals were still glued to the box, watching Eric Idle singing Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life with a cast of thousands. This time the locals were singing along, so we joined in, smiling, as we walked out into the warm night.
The Olympics Closing Ceremony cost £15 million and our singaround was free. An unfair comparison, perhaps, but music is first and foremost an experience in human communication, a means of human expression. It is not a product, it is not a profession and it is not even primarily an entertainment. Fortunately, singarounds will be going on centuries after grandiose ‘bread and circuses’ schemes have turned to dust in the air.