It’s my birthday month, and like other years in November, I’ve been promoting the art of celebration through a single song – which was why I first published this post a year ago under the title “Crisis of Conviction.”
Last year my birthday fell right after the U.S. presidential election and I found myself thinking “Why the @!!!! am I asking people to CELEBRATE?”
This year it feels like we’re tottering on the brink of nuclear destruction (see my song “When the End Comes“), sinking into the mire of catastrophic climate destabilization (no song about that … yet), living with ever higher levels of anxieties about health care, deportation or the violence that’s moving closer and closer to home — no matter where your home is. And I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface here.
As I sit in the middle of those conditions I ask myself – why focus on teaching harp players how to create their own simple arrangements of ONE PARTICULAR simple, silly celebration song – the “Birthday Song”? You know, “Happy Birthday to you …” How is that even relevant to most people right now??”
And, I mean, I’m REALLY focused on this song:
This is how focused: I have a webinar, a free mini-training — and a wicked-quick-training all about how to Hack the Happy Birthday song – and by ‘hack’ I mean how to make your own — and then share it with the people you love. Or me.
IF YOU PLAY THE HARP, I really want you to sign up for all of of these two:
- FREE harp-only webinar called “How to HACK the Happy Birthday Song,“
- FREE “HaRpy Birthday” mini-video-training
But … WHY? Why do I CARE about this?
Why should ANYONE care about the “Birthday Song”?
- It’s a silly song everyone knows.
- The words are repetitive.
- The whole thing is only 4 lines long.
- Nobody even ever sings it WELL — or cares whether it’s sung well.
And then it hit me: THAT’S WHY!!
1. It’s a silly song everyone knows.
Training people how to improvise and create an arrangement of this song is a chance to go back to something you KNOW and learn to be creative with it. A chance to focus on how to enhance the moment of connection instead of how brilliant the underlying content is … to use its very simplicity as an opportunity to explore your own creative options … to know how to TAKE that opportunity for creativity and connection. And to COMMIT to taking that opportunity.
2.The words are repetitive.
It’s not about the cleverness of the words. It’s about the CONNECTION they offer. It’s about making them meaningful because of how you say them, how you play them and simply that you play them and say them.
It’s about accepting – about embracing – that most words of connection ARE repetitive. Like “I love you,” like “Tell me more,” like “Where does it hurt?,” like “You mean so much to me” – like “Happy Birthday.”
3. The whole thing is only 4 lines long
It’s short. It gives you the chance to be creative in a very small arena, to take baby-steps in creative expression – especially if you’re a musician who’s been stuck to the notes on the page.
It’s a chance to learn skills in miniature that you’ll be able to apply to other songs: like how to create an introduction, how to get people to start singing, how to accompany singers or other instruments, how to play if nobody is singing, how to adapt it if the celebration is gentle, or bittersweet – like in a hospice … and how to make it flamboyant, like at a party. How to stall for time creatively if the cake isn’t coming out, how to redeem yourself with an easy, flashy ending even if you stumble through the melody.
This one silly little song gives you the power of a shared musical experience in microcosm. And you don’t need to be an expert musician to make it a completely compelling and memorable experience.
4. Nobody even ever sings it WELL, or cares whether it’s sung well.
Because it’s about CONNECTION … not PERFECTION.
Every opportunity to sing this song, or play it is a chance to make human connection – and to remember the value and beauty and power of simple human connection.
Instead of treating this song ho-hum like something you just need to get through, you can really MAKE something out of it, elevate it. Remind yourself that you can do this with every human connection, every song, every opportunity.
In this tiny way you make a way for people to create community, to raise their voices TOGETHER about something they can all believe in: having a happy birthday. Wishing someone else a happy birthday.
This simple song is about valuing every VOICE, because it’s not an art song, it’s not a ‘look at how great I can sing’ song – it’s a celebration song, a connection song – it’s a song about the listener, not about the singer.
It’s about saying “I’m happy YOU were born,” and “YOU are dear to me.”
So Why do I Care? And why should you?
Because right now – more than ever – we need ways to CONNECT. We need to feel that, no matter what, we are glad we were born, we’re glad each of us was born, we can raise our voices together and we do all have something we can all believe in: the fact that we’re alive, that we were born, that we each do have a birthday.
We’re here. We’re here together. For this moment in time and space. And we can take each moment as an opportunity for human connection and creative expression … or we can just let it pass.
I say let’s make that connection and create as much as we can with it.
If you play the harp, I’ll show you how I do it in this one little song and then celebrate YOU and share that with your world. It’s all free. As free as you were the day you were born:
- Sign up for the replay of the 2016 “How to HACK the Happy Birthday Song,” Webinar
- Take the free FREE “HaRpy Birthday” Training
Then go play your heart out.