So I’ve just learned that the main leader for our Girl Scout troop won’t be at the meeting today, as she’s sick. No problem (I missed last week due to a migraine). But then she wants me to “teach the girls nice songs” because we’re going to an assisted living home next week and she wants them to be able to sing something for the residents. “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” were two suggestions, but she wants them to learn others, and oh, can I find words on the internet and print them out for all 20 girls so they can keep studying them (more likely lose them) between now and next week? And make sure they’re nice songs. (That is, I think, code for inoffensive, familiar, and easy to sing.)
The Star-Spangled Banner, while it’s our national anthem, isn’t a particularly “nice song.” It isn’t easy for many people in this world to sing, and when I’ve led the girls in it in the past as part of our opening flag ceremony, it was a fairly painful thing to hear. They should, at least, be familiar with it.
“God Bless America” is far more singable. It also adds an unnecessary religious element. We’ve got Christian, Jewish, pagan, and Unitarian Universalist kids in the troop that I know of—who knows what else? And why do I have a feeling that people who find “God Bless America” wholly unremarkable would get pretty freaked out if I start teaching their daughters “The Witch Song” which is also, by my standards, a nice song? (I know leader #3 would absolutely flip out and possibly attempt an exorcism if she ever hears the “w” word outside references to Halloween costumes.)
So… finding songs that will be familiar and enjoyable to a mostly senior citizen audience and that the girls in the troop (most of whom seem to have very little experience with actually making music so far in their lives) will enjoy enough to actually try to sing, and that they can learn in the hour I’ll have them all together this afternoon. Oh, wait, I won’t have a full hour, there’s snack time for 15 minutes.
This is not going to be an easy task, and I really hate doing things poorly. I realize that many people will say, “Oh, it’s the thought that counts! They’ll just be happy to hear the girls sing!” But I have this weird, “if you’re going to do it, do it right” thing I’m stuck on. Grrr!
Hmm. “This Land is Our Land” will probably pass if we only do the first verse or so, not the real political ones. Will “If I Had a Hammer” be familiar to these kids? “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” is truly difficult to mess up. I’m drawing on memories of songs my third-grade teacher sang with us, but that means early ’70s stuff. Most kids know “Puff the Magic Dragon” right? I can’t base any expectations on what Katie knows, because she’s been heavily exposed to a wide variety of music throughout her life and would be as likely to suggest “Blood in the Boardroom” (Ani Difranco) as “Amazing Grace.”
This is one of the many times that I wish I’d managed to learn to play the guitar, but I’m way too wimpy about my fingertips. Oh, yeah—we have 5 to 14-year-olds in the troop! And songs that appeal to the 5‑year-olds are probably going to be a hard sell to the 14-year-olds.