In pursuit of building better social fabric around ourselves, my wife and I throw an occasional folk music night. Singing together is one of the best and most wholesome ways to have fun and build better social connections as human beings.
The format is pretty basic. I learned it from my father. We’ve just refined it a bit:
We invite a variety of people who have some inclination to socializing through music, and who can at least sing along but ideally can play an instrument and sing lead.
We gather at 6:30 or so, and sit in a circle in the living room. I explain the rules.
The rules are simple: everyone goes in turn. When it’s your turn, you can play and/or sing a song, request a song, or pass. Others can sing and play along, depending on the song, but should never overpower the lead; we find its best if the accompanyment is light.
Songs are typically folk songs, classics, sea shanties, and hymns. The idea is the songs are enjoyable without being too technical, though of course people are welcome to show off a bit. Usually its mostly guitar and singing, but almost anything works.
Once we’ve gone round a few times, after about an hour or so, we have a break for tea and socializing. People bring snacks to offer for the break.
Then we go around a few more times until it’s time to go home.
If you haven’t done something like this, you really ought to. Even if you don’t play an instrument, almost any crowd can have a blast with a list of old sea shanties and classics.
We’re only moderately skilled in music, but it’s still fun. My wife and I both know a few songs on guitar, and can generally play from written songs with chords. Some of our friends are much better, some quite new to it all. Everyone seems to have fun at all skill levels.
The semi-rigid structure of taking turns ensures that no one person can dominate, and everyone gets a chance to participate. It also puts everyone on the spot a bit, so that it doesn’t just become a concert. Concerts are a good thing, but as a casual social occasion, it is better for music to be participatory.
Music night is a great opportunity to introduce your friends in a fun setting where they can impress each other. We like to get all our married friend-families to know and like each other, and get all our single friends at least aware of each other; you may have other schemes.
I like to invite an ideologically diverse crowd, so that we’re all a little less segregated by ideology. This helps people to learn the social graces to interact positively without politics, and opens our minds a little more. The mixture makes it less political, which is better in my opinion.
The key thing is consistency. If you throw a music night once a month on the same day and time, and get really consistent with reminding a growing list of invitees, it can really become an institution in your social circle.
Let’s do more of this kind of thing.
(PS: let me know if you’re local and like to play music with other people, so we can invite you)