CircleSongs is a drop-in singing group for all ages.
Circlesongs is a unique genre of improvised a cappella singing developed by Bobby McFerrin, famous for his hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” In 1997 he released an album called Circlesongs, featuring his vocal group, Voicestra. It inspired Circlesongs gatherings all over the world.
Singing Circlesongs has special delights. There are no words to memorize--the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms are of the moment--similar to scat singing, but much easier. The rhythmic repetition of the sounds is what gives the “songs” their circular shape and chant-like structure. Singers develop their ability to listen closely to each other and blend, free themselves of self-critical inhibitions, and allow their musical spirits to soar! There’s no obligation, preparing for performances, rehearsing, or stress. What’s left is just joyful singing. Don’t worry--be happy!
The sessions consist of improv singing games, as well as a structured process: Singers stand in a circle, grouped into four or more vocal ranges. The temporary volunteer director is in the middle. He or she stands in front of one of the sections, and mentally creates a short, simple, rhythmic and repetitive musical riff using syllables like ooh, ah, dm and made-up “words.” Vocal and clapping percussion parts are often used. The director then teaches the pattern to that section. When he or she is satisfied they’re singing it correctly, he leaves them repeating their part, and teaches a complementary part to the next section, and so on. The group of singers is like a human looping machine! The director may adjust each section’s volume, as well as cutting them off and bringing them back in. She may improvise over the groove, or just listen to her creation. After about five minutes of playing with the “song,” the director brings it to an end, and a new volunteer director gets to give it a try.
The best way to discover if you’d enjoy this uplifting form of group singing is to watch the videos at Circlesing.org. It may sound intimidating, but if you can carry a tune and have a good sense of rhythm, it’s really quite easy and amazingly rewarding. There’s no pressure to go beyond your comfort zone. Beginners just follow along with the rest of their section. A newcomer said, “It doesn’t matter how you sound--the rest of the group makes you sound great.”