One of the activities that campers can choose is our singing program, the Alleghany Singers. This is a fairly newer activity we offer, though way back in the day (50s and 60s) there were the Alleghany Serenaders.
About ten years ago or so we created this activity, at first called Choir but then changed to more charming name, Alleghany Singers! For many years it was up to the Department Head to choose which songs to sing, practice, and focus on — and often times they were not actually traditional camp songs. That worked well and for a while we liked it just fine like that.
What’s old is new again!
Last year we decided to make a change in Alleghany Singers and focus directly on Camp Alleghany songs, straight from our historical and traditional Camp Songbook! We made this change because we felt like many of our treasured songs from over the years were “lost” — the campers and even many counselors didn’t know some of our traditional songs because over time they had not been sung enough. Additionally, many of the songs we DO still sing were sung incorrectly — whether singing the wrong words or melodies, or just not arranged exactly how they should be.
Our of our dear alums, Laura Dietz Gorsuch, has been working at camp the past few years in the capacity of Head Hopper or Post Office manager and she agreed to also help with this shift in Alleghany Singers (the talented singer that she is!) She was head of the Alleghany Singers during 1st term last year, and will be again this year. Emily Earls will be taking over for second term.
Together we decided on a few goals for the Alleghany Singers:
- Learn and practice select Campfire songs, harmonies and all.
- Record those songs so we could create a CD and/or podcasts.
- Pick a couple of songs to perform at the end-of-term Campfire.
- Sing over the loudspeaker at night a few nights after Taps.
- Teach the rest of camp a few songs, sung the correct way with the right words/tunes (this happened in Assembly for the most part, and sometimes at meals during announcements)
These goals were met very successfully, and we were able to make a CD this year combining several songs recorded last summer, along with some recordings I had from alumnae singing together at Family Camp a few years back. I also threw in one special track from an Alleghany Serenaders recording I have from the 1950s — not the best quality recording, but the singing is GORGEOUS and the nostalgia is a delight!!!
The girls practice many songs, but choose approximately three to perform at the last campfire of each term (Babies Boats for 1st term, Candlelight Campfire for 2nd term). You can even see some of them on our YouTube channel!
Alleghany Singers 2014
All 2014 campers will have the treat of receiving the CD made last year! Next week we’re sending out a package to all campers loaded with information, and in it will be a CD and Songbook for everyone to have. The idea is to listen to the CD before camp — put it on your iTunes or pop it in the CD player in the car — and listen so you’ll start getting the words and tunes down before you get to camp. Even if you’re a seasoned camper, you might be singing the songs wrong! This will give you a chance to learn songs at your own pace and come to love the songs surrounding the culture of our camp.
So this year the goals will be the same, and we plan to record more songs. We’re not sure yet if we’ll stick to strictly campfire songs again, or maybe try out some Assembly or Blue/Gray songs. The idea is so slowly start getting all the campers to know the correct words and tunes of the songs we sing, as well as to teach them some of the songs we don’t sing but used to – somehow over time certain songs just don’t get sung any more, and then after a while we realize the campers don’t even know them!
SO — whether you think you can sing or not — consider taking Alleghany Singers this summer. You’ll learn about some of our songs, maybe some of camp’s history tied in with the songs, have fun practicing and performing, and even get your voice on the next CD for next year!
Something else we’re doing with songs this year is a modified Songfest.
This traditionally is a Blue/Gray event, and the teams are given a set of songs to practice and perform one evening. It tends to be fairly stressful because lots of meetings are required to practice the songs. However, it works well because usually the songs that are chosen will stick and be sung correctly for several years after.
This year Taylor and I had the idea to just have each age group sing one song. Each group will get a different song, for a total of eight songs, and they can choose to practice when it works for that age group (e.g. Unit 1 of Junior Camp might like 12pm free time, while the 16s might like to use their Upstart class).
Then each group will perform their song one evening for evening activity, and the winning group will receive a prize. Usually we have secret judges behind the curtain in the Play Hall who judge on things like how the group sounds together, are they in tune, do they have the right pitch, how is the harmony, etc. The Alleghany Singers counseling staff will choose the songs for each age group and then work with the Unit Heads and campers to teach them the songs so they can then practice on their own.
So there will be a lot of wonderful singing this summer at Camp Alleghany, with our lovely voices resounding through the hills!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls