My Hopes And Intentions For These Singalong Times

Posted by on Apr 17, 2020

This article (click here) is based on a conversation from almost a month ago. I’m grateful to Janet Bauman and Canadian Mennonite for contacting me, being interested in this initiative, and helping to let more people know about it.

At one point in the conversation, Janet asked me why I think we are seeing so much music being shared online these days – what music contributes at a time like this. I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot to say to that question (eventually I came up with something), but I am noticing that in summaries of the article my response to that general question is being described as my hope for these singalongs in particular.

Now, a month later, I’d like to take this chance to be a bit more specific about my hopes and purposes for doing these regular online family singalong times. And especially to those of you who are regular participants (you know who you are!), I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether these specific hopes and intentions are in fact happening, and any other hopes or feedback you’d like to provide.

Here goes. (Fair warning: this could take a while… )

1) My hope was, and is, that these times could be an encouragement and a resource especially for families with children who are needing to stay at home during this time of the pandemic. Others are welcome too, of course, but that is definitely the core “demographic” that I have had in mind for this particular initiative.

2) I was thinking especially (but not exclusively) of families and communities for whom my voice and some of my songs are already familiar from my recordings and engagements over the years; thinking that my voice and face and songs might be a familiar and comforting and “non-anxious presence” in some way for some of these families and communities during this strange and stressful time.

3) By doing this on a “routine” basis (MWF, 1:23 pm ET), my hope was and is that this might help families seeking to establish routines when regular routines have been disrupted (and by posting the videos, families can choose to adapt the timing of these “events” to whatever time/routine works for them). This also extends to different “routines” like washing hands at the beginning of each session, singing Happy Birthday to people with a birthday near the day, etc.

4) By regularly describing things like handwashing and staying home as ways of showing love and care for others, my hope was and is that these times might offer support to parents struggling to explain to their children what is going on, and why it is important to be staying home as much as possible.

5) Further, I have wanted these songs and singing times to help give families a way of expressing that, by doing this extraordinary thing of staying home, we are on an important mission together. While this is hard, it is a good thing to do – it is a way that we are actively showing love and care for our neighbours and others.

6) Even further, my hope was and is that these times can help families to sense that they (we) are not alone in this mission – there are other people all over the place doing this hard work together with us, and we can help to encourage each other to do this hard thing together.

7) My hope was and is that sharing these songs of faith might help these times to be a faith-building experience for families, providing further vocabulary to talk about our experiences and a sense that God is with us, whatever we are going through.

8) My hope was and is that, by posting videos of these singing times including song titles, this collection of videos might help in the process of making these songs available to people as resources that they can draw upon, if they find them useful, in the future. (Most of the songs are also, of course, available as studio recordings on Spotify, iTunes, CDs, and so on).

9) I am very aware of my own limitations, and am trying not to try to do too much here. My hope was and is that I can offer something specific that I am able to give, knowing that others are offering what is theirs to give as well, and we are all doing what we need to do and drawing upon whatever is helpful for us in these days. “It takes all kinds to make the body,” as the song goes – “every part has a gift of its own.”

10) I’ll admit that when I began this a month ago, I was not thinking of it as something that would be good for me. In fact, I was reluctant, as I had been basically off Facebook for over a year and a half, for reasons of my own mental health. I was thinking of these singalong times as something that I hoped could be helpful for others (for all the reasons listed above). I have been surprised by how much these times have come to mean for me, personally; how meaningful it is to see the names on the screen and feel connected with others even when we must remain physically apart… to receive the encouragement and support from people of all ages who have been participating… to feel that I too can have a particular role to play in this strange mission that we are on together… to have this element of routine in my own life as well. I am so grateful.

Well, this has become very long. If you’re still reading – congratulations! Now you know why, as described in the article, the process of songwriting is so important to me. It forces me to be concise!

But I did want to share these thoughts with those who might be interested, to give a fuller picture of my hopes and intentions for these short intervals of time, typically 15-20 minutes, 3 times per week, as we encourage each other on this ongoing journey. I hope we can glimpse, and continue to live into, what we have already sung a couple of times:

You’re not alone, we are one body
You’re not alone, we stand with you
You’re not alone, your time of suffering
Is our suffering too
And I know the day is coming
When we will be rejoicing anew