Discovering Songs and Stories

The Song and the Story began as a special interest group within the Calverton & District u3a in the summer of 2019.

A song often conveys a great story, and many stories have inspired song-writers to pick up a guitar or sit at a piano to put the story to music. This interplay between stories and songs is what has inspired our group. Our own journey has, in itself, become a story of how a group of strangers came together and, through music, songs, stories, poetry, paintings, and lots of laughter, became friends.

One of the great things about this group is the way in which it has evolved: I started out merely wanting to explore the back-story to folk songs. Once the group formed, however, members began to bring their own ‘oral histories’ and ideas to the party. We now share the research, presentations and ideas for appropriate stories and songs. Although we have a couple of singers/guitarists in the group we don’t overemphasise the need to sing – we use Spotify tracks a lot and listen to the songs. We have been able to carry on throughout the Covid outbreak by going onto Zoom (this even had advantages in that we could share YouTube clips of songs and stories). The Song and Story group is multi-venued (if that’s even a word!) – depending on restrictions/weather etc. we have met in: houses – pubs – gardens – on zoom – and now at a local book shop!

When we first met in 2019, we got to know each other by sharing stories of our origins and how we came to be in Calverton. Some of us were ‘born and bred insiders’ and others had migrated into the community (the ‘outsiders!’). We also heard historic examples of migration and the movement of people including people moving from Europe to the ‘New World’, enforced movement through the slave trade (Kumbayah), and the Irish Diaspora (Paddy on the railway).

Since then, we have taken inspiration from: current events, from the changes of the seasons, and from random events such as Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, and the Covid pandemic (which inspired us to look at songs and stories about ‘overcoming adversity’). We’ve listened to songs and shared stories of battlefields and conflict, protest and change but also of winter festivals and travelling fairs (pictured; a drawing by group member, John.) The group has also been a form of escapism for us, as we went on virtual vacations by sharing memories of past holidays and used music to metaphorically go to the movies when cinemas were closed, listening to songs including ‘The Streets of Philadelphia (from Philadelphia) and ‘Sunshine on Leith’ from the film of that name.

One particularly memorable meeting came early in 2020 when members selected songs that carried personal stories – our Soul Songs. This led to a wide ranging and eclectic mix of music which evoked emotions and memories from our own pasts and included: ‘The John Dunbar theme’ from Dances with Wolves – ‘Sweet Caroline’ – ‘Moonlight Serenade’ – ‘Songs of Trinidad and Tobago’ – ‘Land of my Fathers’ – Mozart’s ‘Clarinet Concerto’ – ‘The Boxer’ and Jimmy Nail’s ‘Big River.’

The group has proved (of it needed proving) just how powerful can be a good story or a great song. As we approach 2022 we look forward to many more songs and stories to come….to be continued!

Len, Convenor for The Song & Story Group at Calverton & District u3a
Original artwork is by John, a group member