“If you build it, they will come” continues to resonate as I now make it a daily habit to play one of the two pianos out on JFK drive in Golden Gate Park. I played one this morning and though I am happy to do so regardless of who is listening, it becomes a game of sorts to see if either the particular piece I’m playing or my interpretation of it is intriguing enough to make the people walking, skating, running or biking by stop for a moment to listen. Often they do, some to the end of one piece, some hanging about for several more. And as happens, the more people who stop, the more it attracts attention of others passing by.
This afternoon, I played again, but this time it was the monthly gathering of the Neighborhood Sing that I started during the pandemic that happily is now in its third year. I always play guitar with them, so this was the first time I got to expand the repertoire to pieces I’m more comfortable playing on piano. Lo and behold, people began gathering, especially (but not only) those with young kids, including our ex-upstairs neighbor with her new baby who we hadn’t met yet! I immediately included the newcomers, encouraging them to sing along or dance—and they did! Combining the repertoire of “happy songs,” jazz standards from the 20’s through 60’s like Side by Side, Sunnyside of the Street, Skinnamarink, A You’re Adorable, Pennies from Heaven, My Favorite Things etc. with the classic children’s songs (Itsy Bity Spider, Bingo, Twinkle Little Star, Old Macdonald, some with a jazz twist), we went on for over an hour without a moment’s pause, with the crowd sometimes as many as 25 or 30 people.
I’m so grateful for my 45 years at The San Francisco School singing every day with the children and gathering a large, large repertoire that is at my fingertips and available at a moment’s notice. No cumbersome pieces of paper, no scrolling through the i-Phone for lyrics, no long pauses wondering “what should we sing next?” Just seamlessly moving from one to another with a repertoire that invites participation with a chorus that all can sing or motions they can do or simple words that they might already know.
I’ve taken this love for community singing to The Jewish Home for 14 years now and now am moving it further down the road with the Neighborhood Sing, amplified yet more by this new Field of Dreams on JFK drive, this opportunity for Drive-By-Singing.
Come on by!