Tuesday, 10 January 2012

If music be the food of love. . .

I suppose there might well be some clever clogs out there who are thinking I am a little late with this post which should, they are thinking, have appeared last Thursday but yah boo sucks to you and all that, this really has nothing to do with Twelfth Night. Mind you, the Old Bard knew a thing or two, didn't he? Whether or not music can induce love I really don't know - I don't recall it ever having that effect on me - but music certainly can affect one's mood. Look how some music will set your foot tapping no matter how down in the dumps you might be feeling to start with. Some music makes me want to laugh, while other music seems to bring about a serious mood. And I know it's not just me who can be affected by music.

Years ago I ran a scout troop and every year we went off for a week's camping in the summer. During the camp we always had two or three formal camp fires - sing-alongs. I say 'formal' because we did treat these camp fires as a sort of ceremony. The fire was always lit in a special camp fire circle which would ideally be a little distance from the tents etc and be furnished with logs for seats. The fire would be set during the afternoon and built with logs of appropriate size laid as a pyramid, bigger logs at the base, smaller at the top. The centre would be stuffed with small sticks and kindling and axle grease would be smeared onto the outer logs. We tried not to light the fire using magic fire water (paraffin) but didn't mind cheating with a bit of grease.

I had been taught by an expert how to run a camp fire and I think I had learned my lesson well. I always planned in advance what songs would be sung and made it a rule never to introduce a new song at camp. New songs would be learned during troop meetings. There were three basic groups of songs: starting songs that would get everybody singing along, songs for the middle section of the programme that were more complicated, and songs to wind down as the camp fire drew to a close. It was important that songs were used in the correct part of the programme; it would have been pointless introducing a quiet, thoughtful song near the start and foolish to get everybody jumping around and shouting at the end.

I ran many camp fires but there was just one occasion when I achieved near perfection. That year the camp fire circle was in a woodland glade, which helped with the ambiance. As the programme of songs went on I could feel the atmosphere becoming more and more electric. We built up in a crescendo just exactly the way I had hoped, and then gradually things calmed down. After the last song (only I knew it to be the last) there was silence. I eventually said just a couple of words - "Goodnight, lads" or something like that. Two dozen or so boys got up and went to bed in absolute silence, so affected were they by the atmosphere.

Just the once - and I shall never forget it.


Anonymous said...


My lad Will helped out with the cubs for 6 weeks as part of his D of E community service when he was 14...he stayed for 12 years.

All kids should be scouts, and well done you for being a leader.


Stephen Hayes said...

I was never a cub scout and never imagined that a camp fire was something to be managed. Interesting.

Suldog said...

I was a Cub Scout (and a Boy Scout, for a short time after, although considering my writings these days, they would probably deny my having been part of them.) Anyway, sitting around a campfire, singing and whatever else, was one of the truly great memories of my experiences in those organizations. And I absolutely agree with SP. All kids should be scouts. It was a great fun organization, with good teaching moments and lovely activities.