For want of a better term, let's call it a celebration of songwriting. It was like a songwriting festival during which writers from coast-to-coast perform new material written around common themes. For the participants it was a fun songwriting challenge, as well as a chance to meet other songwriters in their community and hear their work. For the audience it was a very entertaining show. It was an opportunity for everyone to see where different writers can go from the same starting point.
Here's what the Song-Along wasn't: it was not a contest or a competition; there was no evaluation or judging; there were no entry requirements or prizes. It was not a seminar or workshop; there was no instruction or critique, no panel of experts. It was not a benefit or showcase.
It was a blast. That's about all there was to it.
Songwriters contacted Song-Along founder and organizer Karen Leslie Hall, or one of the regional coordinators. They were given four themes to choose from and one or more dates to perform. They committed to a date, then wrote a song, inspired by the theme or themes they picked. Then they showed up on the appointed night and performed their new song. Finally, they relaxed and listen to what everybody else has come up with. Simple! And lots of fun!
The Song-Along was, above all, for fun. It was meant to promote creativity and self-expression for all songwriters, from novices to professionals. It also encouraged camaraderie and networking in the songwriting community.
The Song-Along was a "no-money miracle". Nobody paid or made any money, and it was not a vehicle to raise money for any cause or charity (this could give a political or sociological slant to the event that might exclude people or color the content of the songs). In the spirit of pure fun, unfettered self-expression, and wide-open accessibility, the Song-Along was designed to leave money, politics, and controversy out of it altogether (although songwriters were welcome to include political or controversial issues in their songs!)
The accessibility aspect of the Song-Along was also very important. Everyone was welcome to participate, regardless of experience or ability. Past Song-Alongs included people who wrote their first-ever song for the event, others making their stage debut, seasoned professionals, and everyone in between. There were no auditions or evaluations of songwriters; the only requirement was that they write a Song-Along song and commit to a date on which to present it.
All of this added up to a veritable "free-for-all" for songwriters, and musical evenings that were engaging, inspiring, and even magical.
The themes for the 1996 Song-Along were:
"Almost halfway" "Smoke" "Front porch" "On finding only one"
The last Song-Along was held in March and April, 1996, in communities all across Canada, and in Alaska too.
Anchorage, Alaska Elmvale-Midland-Orillia
Hamilton, Ontario London, Ontario Ottawa, Ontario Peterborough, Ontario Regina, Saskatchewan St.Catharines, Ontario Toronto, Ontario Vancouver, British
Whitby, Ontario Wolfville, Nova Scotia