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Leading Songs

Singing can set the entire tone for the camp and its members. You can whip a group into a state of tremendous enthusiasm and introduce an atmosphere of quiet retrospection by effectively using music.

Singing has always been a medium for emotional expression, and by the same token has greatly influenced the course of human events. High morale and good feeling are essential to the success of any camping operation.

Singing began when people began. We sing for fun, we sing because the song fits the mood, or we influence the mood by the song. Singing can be a tremendous force by which the counselor can influence the attitude and temperament of his patrol. Songs of fellowship enrich the enjoyment of being with new friends; some songs heighten religious, spiritual or patriotic fervor; inspirational songs open a world more beautiful and satisfying.

Wes Klusmann, who was one of America's greatest and most distinguished campfire directors, and a man who had the delightful knack of inspiring his audience to spontaneous song, pointed out that one need not be an expert to lead singing. His tips are as follows:

  • The first song should be a well known one. The crowd can't go wrong and the success of the first song will establish your success as the leader. (All you have to do is keep up with it.)
  • Announce each song clearly and name the tune if it isn't an original song.
  • Sing a few notes to give pitch and tempo.
  • Start everyone at the same time--shout, "Let's go!" in rhythm with time or clap your hands or stamp your foot and start the next beat.
  • Use simple hand motions to indicate the tempo.
  • Choose songs that fit the crowd and the occasion.
  • Formal leadership isn't always necessary. While natural and spontaneous singing is possible, encourage it.
  • Stunt songs and crazy titles have a place in recreational singing but don't overdo it for the most enduring satisfaction.
  • Know the songs you are leading.
  • Get the group's attention and briefly introduce the song. Tell some interesting bit about it or ask the group to listen for something special, such as:
    • What are the people in the story that this song tells?
    • What kind of place does the song describe?
    • Guess what country the song comes from.
  • While the group listens, sing the song through as well as you can and then give them time to ask questions.
  • Sing one line at a time and ask the group to listen and echo softly.
  • Still softly, until they are sure of the melody, have them sing the whole song through with you.
  • Repeat it once or twice if interest prevails or go onto some other activity and come back to the song later.

See Suggested Songs for campfire and other song ideas.