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When Pete Seeger was a keynote speaker at the 1987 International Camping Congress in Washington, D. (a camp song and folk song expert, writer, performer, and researcher) was asked when camp singing began, this was his response: In the late 1800s / early 1900s, the confluence of the wilderness movement and establishment of National and Provincial (State) Parks, produced the drive to get kids out of the city and into the natural environment.
C., he expressed the notion that, perhaps, camp singing had its early beginnings in the Camp Gospel Revival Meetings. Larry Eisenberg, one of camp history's most influential songleaders (and the person who brought "Kum Bah Yah" to camps) tended to agree with Pete. And there was the amazing phenomenon of singing in early movie theaters ("Follow the bouncing ball . ."), and, of course, in parlours around the home piano.
Last summer, the board of our local Big Brothers / Big Sisters Camp Mc Govern was invited to camp for a hamburger / chips / soft drink evening with staff.
Much to my delight, the staff broke into spontaneous song.
My deepest gratitude to my friend, Gary Schofield, who searched out these spirituals (and many, many more), as well as most of the war songs that follow.
I worked with Gary when he was the Boys' Work secretary at the Ottawa Canada YMCA.
England was alive with communal song: joining in with the performers in the halls; singing in the upper levels of the theatre ("The Gods") before a Gilbert and Sullivan performance; mass choral concerts at Victoria's Jubilee.
We sing folk songs; spirituals; patriotic songs; religious songs; fun, nonsense, novelty, action songs; melodious (rounds, partner songs); popular songs that are "catchy"; songs that we write (or adapt) ourselves.
When the service was finished, they did some singing on their own.
Their religious beliefs often incorporated traditions brought from Africa and their singing used tunes and harmonies based on their remembered traditions.
These African-American songs hold a special place in the history of folk songs; their influence in the beginning of camp singing and their continued popularity is without equal.
They are melodious, easy to sing, and their simple tunes combine with compelling rhythms to exactly suit the mood and needs of a group singing around a campfire.