Songwriters' Circles

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by Jan Seides
Thursday 25th June, 2009, 3:44am

Last month, I joined a songwriters’ circle, for the first time in several years. I was part of a really fun one back then, but the person who hosted it moved, and no one else was interested in having a bunch of songwriters invade their home every month. This new one meets in the law offices of one of the members, so it’s probably going to be there for awhile.

For the uninitiated, here’s what happens at a songwriters’ circle. Each writer voluntarily performs some new effort, and subjects it to the opinions of all the other writers present. We even print out lyrics so that everyone else can write comments and suggestions on their very own copy of the song. They also, the brave ones anyway, speak their opinions aloud for the ears of all present. All of this requires a certain amount of trust, and although many of these people are new to me, I know most of them are veterans so I know they’ll be gentle but honest.

The circle consists of Joe Strouse –who invited me, Polk Shelton — whose offices these are, Sue Young – an old friend, and several others whose names I haven’t committed to memory yet. One of the members played a song that I gathered he’d tried out here before. It’s about someone who is in love with the female symbol on the ladies room door. I’m not certain what to make of this, but decide to approach it matter-of-factly, and pretty much ignore such minor matters as the fact that this is kind of an unusual subject. Someone else plays a lovely song about hiking on a mountain as a metaphor for life, and we all have our say about the rhyme scheme, but this is a subject that I’m used to hearing in a song. Much easier than symbols on bathroom doors. Then there is a song about Black-eyed Susans (the wildflower), which is a nice song, but then it turns out that the flower in question is really a Maximillian Sunflower. (I know this because I used to lead a Girl Scout Troop, and I made them learn all the Texas wildflowers – “because I said so”) Totally threw his rhyme scheme off, so I imagine we’ll hear a re-written version of that next time.

I played a song for them that only a few people have heard at this point, called “Rachel’s Sister”. It was very well received, and one person suggested replacing a word so that it was a perfect rhyme. I’m not into perfect rhymes, if a near-rhyme will get the point across better, so I’m probably not going to change the word, but I like that he thought of it and was willing to say so. That’s the neat thing about song circles. People can feel free to make suggestions, and you can feel free to take them or not, and every once in awhile, someone says something brilliant that you can use.

Nice, huh.

Category: Music

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