Alive Singing

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

We were in the cities this past weekend for a family gathering, and managed to squeeze in the season’s last “Singing in the Light” event Sunday afternoon. This is led by my friend Barbara McAfee, a local singer/songwriter and voice coach. (She has given a couple of fun concerts with Claudia Schmidt, which a few baboons have attended.) It takes place in the Art Gallery (huge room) of the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, on maybe seven Sunday afternoons out of the school year.

I’ve written here  before about singing in song circles or community sings, which have been around in Minnesota in one form or another since WWI. The kind I am most familiar with involve song sheets or books, and requires a couple of people on guitar. While that’s very enjoyable, I’ve noticed that much of the time is spent looking at the lyrics we’re singing – we interact with people mainly at snack break.

The Oral Tradition, on the other hand, is singing without written music or lyrics to look at, and is done “a capella” – without accompanying instruments (Italian: “in chapel style”). The music is described as “songs, rounds, and chants from around the world — from the sublime to the ridiculous.” All ages, all abilities (don’t have to read music!), are invited.

It works like this:  someone (in this case Barbara) teaches us the parts via “call and response”, which we repeat, sampling them till we know it well enough to choose one. We move to that part of the room, then practice till we sort of know our part, and give it a whirl. After we get going we are invited to walk over to where they’re singing another part – heck, on some songs I was able to try out several – and move around the room. This goes on till everyone gets their part down well, and it sort of organically winds down or gets softer, and then that song’s done.

Meanwhile, all of a sudden there is this beautiful music, and we are making it. We are also looking at each other as we sing and walk around. It is the most satisfying kind of singing I have ever done, and sometimes brings me to tears. I wish everyone who loves to sing could get a chance to try it. I’ve never felt more alive while singing.

What is a regular activity of yours where there is eye contact with other people?

51 thoughts on “Alive Singing”

  1. Rise and Look ‘Em in the Eye, Baboons!

    Every day I go to work, I have eye contact with my clients.

    OT, where do people now get information about folk concerts (i.e. Claudia Schmidt) in the Cities? I used to get all info from TLGMS and now I am missing out. Aargh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here are some more local Claudia Schmidt concerts. Don’t know if you’re familiar with house concerts, Jacque, but they are really fun. Highly recommend trying one if you haven’t already.

      WED. JUNE 21 MPLS. MN. Dunsmore Room at Crooners Lounge w/Dean Magraw and Bryan Nichols 7pm We had a wonderful time last Feb and are meeting again on this Summer Solstice evening to play as a fundraiser for the Minnesota Women’s Consortium You can have dinner or just beverages. .6161 Hwy. 65 NE Call for tix at 800-838-3006 or visit

      THUR. JUNE 22 ST. PAUL MN. Ginkgo Coffeehouse One of my fave old time coffeehouse scenes (remember the Extempore back in the last century?!) 7:30 721 N. Snelling Ave. 651-645-2647 or

      FRI. JUNE 23 GOLDEN VALLEY MN. Folk House Concert 4500 Culver Rd. 7:30 PLEASE reserve ahead, seating is limited. .651-274-6604 or

      SUN. JUNE 25 ST. PAUL MN Spirit United Interfaith Gathering 10:30am 701 Lexington Pkwy. N. I’m doing the whole service. .all are welcome! 612-378-3602 or

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Barbara McAfee has an concert (with Tim Frantzich) at the Danish American Center on July 16 at 7:00 p.m. I don’t see it on her website’s schedule yet (will let her know), but I hae an email with info I can forward if anyone is interested.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Husband says the Native Americans with whom he works don’t have issues with eye contact, but thinks that other tribes like the Lakota or the Navajo might.


      1. We wrote steps for behaviors for elementary students. How to avoid interrupting. How to sit up in a desk. Many many of them included a step for making eye contact. When I brought them to the Navajo schools, I helped them change that step.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We weren’t able to use the photo of this event from Barbara’s website, but you can click on Oral Tradition above to see that. Renee says this photo at tope is of “a choir loft In an English church where the singers have to face each other. “


    1. Well, I misspoke when I called it a loft, as it is on the main floor. It is the choir area where singers sit on opposite sides in the choir stalls and face one another when they sing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It seems obvious, but eye contact and mindful presence are what distinguishes a genuine and more satisfying connection in everyday interactions, as at a cash register, from a perfunctory one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, Bill, and it goes both ways. So many people seem to think that it’s their prerogative to ignore the cashier and concentrate on the conversation that they’re carrying on over their cell phone instead. Extremely rude in my book. It’s equally as rude when a cashier is engaged in an ongoing conversation with a neighboring cashier and doesn’t bother to acknowledge your presence. Both pet peeves of mine.

      I’ve noticed when Hans and I have been out to dinner, that it seems to have become common practices for couples to be engaged in some activity or other on the cell phone while they’re having dinner rather than talking with each other. Weird.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I once went to a dentist who had an office very close to my house and therefore convenient. He may have been perfectly competent, for all I know, but the whole time I was in the chair he kept up a conversation with his assistant and scarcely acknowledged my presence. It was weird and off-putting. I never went back to him.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Something similar happened to me with a medical doctor. I was having a patch of skin cancer removed from my neck, and the entire time he was digging in my neck with a scalpel, he was entertaining his female assistant with the previous night’s antics in his brother-in-law’s garage.


        2. I think it would be great when we decide not to go back to someone who ignores us, we write them a note and let them know. One could hope that if enough people let them know what they’re doing (because they are apparently not mindful enough to see it themselves), maybe they would change.


        3. Conversely, once when I was having a bone spur whacked off my big toe, I was draped and tented in such a way that I couldn’t see the surgeon at all (he was using local anesthetic, so I was fully awake). All the surgeon could see of me was my big toe, yet he kept up a lively conversation with it throughout the procedure. I’ve often imagined that image from an omnipresent perspective.

          Liked by 2 people

        1. I once had a long conversation with the anesthetist who was a close friend will my intestines were being pulled out and examined. At that same operation a nurse went out of her way to introduce herself as the parent of a third grade student I had, all while she was shaving me for the operation.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Why do my comments make perfect sense to me when I write them, but when I re-read them, they are confusing?

        Let’s edit that to say:
        I had a very funny and fun interaction with the cashier at Savers today; the eye contact we made was part of the funny experience.

        (not sure if that is any better…)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. tell me more ljb.
          i had an odd deal this morning. i go to goodwill every tuesday morning i am in town for the 75% off the color of the day tag and i but suit coats and suits and top coats to sell on ebay. there is one cashier who has as part of her personality the trait that folds clothes perfectly when ringing them up then putting them in a bag in a way that allows me to set the bag down for the day or even a week or month and when i unfold it the wrinkles are at a minimum, so i go to her and wait if it is possible even if there are other cashiers working. this morning there was a long line up waiting for check out and i heard her call for additional cashiers to come up. i took another lap around the store and when i came back the line had gone down some and there was a second cashier but as i waited it became appearant i was going to be called by the new one and i told the person behind me to go ahead. then another person and then a third. well theresa who was the other cashier is quick and stuffs things in a bag which is why i wait for diana but theresa wa sobviously out out that i didnt want her. theresa and i say hi and greet each other in the store every week and i have seen her at the library and commented on her new hairdoo but she has taught me that i should never allow her to stuff my suitcoiats ina bag like a bunch of rags going to the rag bag. i made the apoligetic eye roll each time i sent the next person on to her register and then i had to make sure to say good bye when i went out the door but you could tell it was the opposite of a funny interaction. i feel guiolty but not guilty enough the wrinkle up all my stuff.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. i simply cant believe how smart phones have taken over the world. a person cant sit in a room or on a bench or at a table for two minutes without checking to study the little conversation killer in their palm. i regurlarly startle people with a conversation about nothing and evolving it quickly into a topic of discussion. people dont mind being interacted with but it never occurs to them to do it on their own.


  5. Hey comments. Sorry I’ve been scarce the last few days. It’s Clyde’s fault. One word: Longmire.


      1. Steve mentioned it but you commented that you liked it. No offense to Steve, but since I usually like the books that you recommend, I thought I’d give it a shot.


  6. I have several doctors right now who do indeed make eye contact and a personal connection, except my eye dr. who wants me to fit into a neat box she can ignore for the two minutes she is in the room. I think I am about to ‘switch. She has that unfortunate same last name as me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is it eye contact when your eye doctor shines a light in your eyes and looks deep into your eyes? I guess he’s making eye contact but I’m not since he wants me to look a little off to the side

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The last time I was there I was returning about my dry eyes. She stood in the doorway and did not come into the room. That was the move that is making me go searching.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I sometimes use the self-checkout lanes at the stores like Target and Cub. There is usually someone nearby whose job it is to monitor what’s going on in those lanes, and I generally say a couple of words and make eye contact with that person. They are usually quite friendly, and I’m not sure if it’s because they want to be, or because they know there is a potential customer survey that will ask the customer if they were greeted and thanked properly. Woe to the employees who get a negative rating on the survey.

    I’ve had some eye contact recently with the squirrel who hangs around the kitchen window waiting to see if I’m going to put out any stale corn chips or bread. Mr. or Ms. Squirrel will stand on a stump near the window with paws held up at chest level and gaze at me as if trying to hypnotize me. “You’re getting sleeeeepy…you want to toss Tostitos into the garden…you don’t really want that English muffin, do you? Just let it go…”

    Liked by 4 people

  8. i wake up every morning with two cats and two dogs wanting to know if its food time or simply a walk to the bathroom.

    i laugh when i remember the flight attendant who was so good at making eye contact it felt like she was giving you her soul for the moment. whe would lean in and look deep deep deep into your eyes and twinkle at you then move on top the next person and do the same to them. afte rthe third or fourth interaction, i had to laugh and ask her if her mother made the same kind of eye contact as she did. she leaned ingot about 6 inches from my nose and twinkled that yes my mum had the same eye contact. then off she went.

    ot my two weekend dittys on being and brain pickings had great entries this week
    krista on bob green math and the science of life and a highlight of infatuation and the whys and hows on brain pickings. i was infatuated by that stewardess. it happens…eye contact can be dangerous


    1. That’s hilarious about the stewardess, tim – every once in a while I encounter someone like that, and then I realize that to know how long they’ll maintain contact, I am doing the same thing they are.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.