Leading a Song Circle

Local musician, Mike James, shares with us how he's chosen to lead our Song Circle, based on his experience as a song leader over the years. There are probably no two Song Circle alike, but for the sake of continuity at our monthly Song Circles, as various shantymen and shantywomen lead it, Mike suggests we try to stick to this recommended protocol, as the community has come to expect a certain tenor and flow of our Port Townsend Sea Shanty Song Circle and Sing-Along as follows: 

About Our Song Circle and Sing-Along

Song circles are set up to give everyone an equal opportunity to participate at your own comfort levels in this musical experience. To this end, some ground rules have been helpful in making our shanty circles an enjoyable experience.  While various song circle leaders may have their own styles, here are the procedures that seemed to have worked so far.  Remember, song circles are about the songs and community, and not about the singer.

1. You can lead a shanty or maritime related song, pass, or request a song that someone from the group may want to lead.  For those of us who are reluctant to lead the singing, a steady reading of the song's verse can be done, and the group can join in on the chorus.  Brief announcements are welcome before we start the song circle.

2. A coin toss will determine which way, left or right, from the group leader's location that the leaders, passers, or "requesters" will be chosen.  Going row by row rather than random choosing seems to be the fairest procedure. Those of us who arrive late and sit in an area that the circle has passed are asked to wait until the circle comes around rather than backing up and giving latecomers preference. The leader has the option of starting off the evening with a song or going right into selecting according to seating sequence.

3. Once you have had a chance to lead a song, jumping to another seat to get another chance to lead another song before all have had an opportunity is discouraged.
4. If time runs out before you have had a chance to lead, pass, or request it is in the spirit of the circle concept to give them first chance at the next monthly circle.  Exceptions may occur.  For example, some of us may come from Whidbey Island and will have to leave early to catch an 8:30 ferry.  Find out who is one a fixed schedule and give them a chance to lead before eight o'clock.

5. To give as many people as possible a chance to lead, it may be necessary to limit the number of verses sung of any given song.  Just because a song has a dozen verses doesn't mean that we have to sing all of them.  It didn't work that way aboard ship.  When the work was completed that song ended.

6. Take about a ten to fifteen minute break about halfway through the evening (good luck… it will probably become 20 unless you do your bucko mate routine).  The bathrooms are outside the cafĂ© doors and to the right. The "galley" is open after hours for our convenience. 

7. Let the fun begin.