Do I have to sing in order to attend events?
We encourage everyone to participate in singing, but you do not have to sing if you don’t want to.
Do I have to be a good singer to sing at events?
We encourage everyone to participate in singing. During group singing, it is important to pay attention to what the leader and other singers are singing so that you learn through listening. If you want to sing solo, preparing the song so that you can present it well is more important than having a fine voice.
Can I sing acapella?
Yes, of course—we support the traditional practice of singing without accompaniment (acapella).
Can I play an instrument while I sing?
Yes, we encourage both accompanied and unaccompanied songs.
Can I play an electric or amplified instrument?
Electric/amplified instruments are not permitted at the retreats but may be played at other events.
Can I play an instrumental piece with no words?
Yes, if it is from the folk genre.
Can I sing/play any kind of music I like?
No; while we define the term “folk song” broadly, it does not encompass every type of music. Generally, the VFSS is not the right venue for jazz, rock, pop, punk, rap, electronic, Broadway, or classical music. The best way to get a feeling for what we consider “folk” is to come out and listen at a couple of sessions.
What’s a songcircle?
Songcircles are casual, supportive occasions to share songs. The group sits in a large (or small) circle. Each person in turn is given the opportunity to lead a song of their choice or pass. There is no pressure to perform or to perform perfectly.
Will I be pressured to sing solo?
No; we hope you will feel comfortable joining in on group singing and, in time, you will feel ready to present songs alone. However, if and when you make that transition is up to you.
If I know the song someone else is singing, can I sing along?
Most singers welcome group singing in the choruses of their songs. Usually, but not always, verses are sung by the performer alone. If in doubt, don’t sing during verses.
If I know the song someone else is singing or playing, can I play along on my instrument?
Not unless the event is listed as a Jam. Unfamiliar instrumental accompaniment can throw off a singer who is not accustomed to it, particularly a novice or timid performer. Songcircles are not musical jam sessions.
Can I sing using sheet music, lyric sheets, or music books?
Yes; use music sheets if needed. More experienced performers may choose to sing “off the book”—without sheets. We encourage singers to prepare their songs well so that the sheets are merely an aid to memory.
I’m a singer but I don’t play an instrument. Can I ask someone else to accompany me?
If you would like someone to provide accompaniment when you sing, feel free to ask. Many of our musicians are both able and willing to help out if possible.
Can I request that someone else sing a specific song?
Generally, no. Because singers usually have certain songs prepared, it is discourteous to ask them to do “your” song instead. Also, while we don’t force anyone to sing, we do want to encourage everyone to step out of their usual role as audience member and take a turn at singing; if someone else sings your song for you, you are put back in a passive role.
Can I ask the group to help me sing a song?
Yes; if you are prepared to lead the song and other members of the group know it, you can ask the group to sing along.
Can I sing/play music from other cultures?
Yes, we welcome folk music in any language and from any culture.
Can teens and children attend events?
Yes, we welcome young people at our events. However, we do not have specific activities geared towards teens or children and parents remain responsible for their children’s safety.