Music, Summer Camp, and Motherhood: A review of Rise Up Singing by Peter Blood & Annie Patterson

Cover of "Rise Up Singing"Blood, Peter & Annie Patterson, eds. Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook. 15th ed. Illustrated by Kore Loy McWhirter. Introduction by Pete Seeger. Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out, 2004.

Description: Rise Up Singing, first published in 1988, is a songbook that, as the cover describes, contains the lyrics, musical chords, and sources to over 1200 songs. The songs are organized into themes that the book explores alphabetically, beginning with “America” and finishing with “Work.” In between you’ll find a huge range of categories, from “Farm & Prairie” to “Mountain Voices,” from “Good Times” to “Hard Times & Blues.” Themes of travel, the sea,

Sample image of a page from "Rise Up Singing"

Here is an example of the page layout. This is from the section of “Hope” songs, and on this page is one of my favorites, “Julian of Norwich.”

lullabies, hope, love, and struggle are other examples. The songs are organized alphabetically within each theme or chapter, as well. Six indices make this songbook particularly useful, and these are: Artist Index, Cultures Index, Holidays Index, Musical Index, Subject Index, and Title Index. The Title Index helpfully includes titles that you might think songs are called by. This book will help save you from awkward moments of humming through lines of lyrics you can’t remember (or from making up your own lyrics to fill in the blanks of your memory, not that that’s always a bad thing), and its bountiful selection is sure to teach you some new tunes, too.

Personal Reaction: I’m a camp girl, myself. I went to Camp Betsey Cox in Pittsford, Vermont for thirteen years (a couple as a daycamper, which I’m not sure is an option anymore, a couple as a counselor-in-training and counselor). Why is this relevant? Because summer camp furnishes you with a lifetime supply of songs: silly songs, rounds, active movement songs, and lullabies. Indeed, Camp Betsey Cox is fondly known as “the camp with a song in its heart.” Even as a babysitter I found my musical camper background always coming in handy, but honestly, learning all those songs might have been the best preparation for motherhood that I had. And motherhood is the excuse I’ve been looking for my entire life to sing those well-loved tunes whenever I damn well please! But with the vast number of songs I know comes an equally large number of lyrics I’ve always fudged my way through or long since forgotten. This book, a gift a number of years ago (I’m on my second copy now because my first disappeared during the misadventure that was college dorm life), has come to my rescue. It’s more than just a rescuer, though. I’ve spent hours poring over the pages and singing to myself or with friends. Friends have joyfully picked out songs they love and taught them to me, because nope, even thirteen years at summer camp did not teach me ALL the songs. This songbook is truly a treasury, and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves to sing, is a parent, is a teacher or librarian, or yes, who went to summer camp.