Irish Sing Song

The Main Piece: 

The following is a conversation about an Irish tradition called Sing Song. 

Informant: Sing Song! Ya they’re just kind of automatic after dinner. There can be a conversation but like it’ll just naturally go towards like “oh hey I heard the new single the Foggy June” and someone will be like “Oh yeah!  the Foggy Jew” and then everyone will just go (vocalizing) “Oh down the glen…” and then everyone just starts singing it and then they’ll be like “let’s sing some more songs” and my uncle will grab his guitar and you know he’ll sing a song. And then someone will get a penny whistle out there too and people are dancing.

Interviewer: Do people have to sing songs when it’s their turn?

Informant: No, if it’s an actual event it’ll be like we’re having a SING SONG but if it is after dinner then it just kind of  goes wherever it wants to, but it does go between singing songs and telling stories mostly. Conversation doesn’t really happen that munch unless people are drunk and screaming. But if it’s like an event, like grand dad’s retirement party, then everyones gonna sit down like alright let’s have a sing song and you get out the musical instruments and you get out the stories and it’s like alright let’s go. It’s a big thing. 

Interviewer: What types of songs and stories do you share?

Informant:Traditional Irish music, uh music written by current Irish people. Ya, that’s actually it, stories will be a lot of the time just favorite stories or anecdotes that someone has. Like everyone knows it but we still want to hear it again because we like the way that person tells it. We can also help tell it.

Background: The informant was born in Ireland, and moved to the United States as a baby. He is a Dual-Citizen and feels closely connected to his Irish roots. Here he explains a favorite pastime of his, one he regards as a tradition, called Sing Song. A sometimes formal, but often informal space for creation and storytelling amongst family and friends. He explained that this occurs at every family gathering big and small, so it is something he has grown up with, and something he will continue to do. 

Context: This conversation took place in a relaxed environment after dinner. The informant was reminded of his fond memories at the table and was excited to share such a lively tradition with those around him.

My thoughts: I actually have heard and participated in something very similar to the informants when I worked at a renaissance faire. At the faire, we called this method of storytelling a bardic circle and essentially used it as a space for bards to tell stories, sing songs, or perform epics. Like, the informant these circles sometimes would just evolve naturally if we were already gathering in a small circle, or it could be its own event that people went to. Of course, in my situation we were performers mimicking life in the renaissance. However, my heart was warmed to hear that similar traditions still live out in households today. Not only that, but the subject matter has evolved as well to include personal accounts performed in a way that makes them legendary.