Every movement has its songs. Every movement in history has sustained itself through continually rehearsing its reason for existing. Keeping the vision alive through the stories of its everyday heroes, regularly celebrating the smallest victories and even what could be called defeats, and singing the songs that lifted spirits and moved souls to stay on the march.
In the Town Meeting 76 campaign songs were written by each and every community where a meeting was held. Local residents would get together on the day of the forum and choose a familiar tune and then a small group would go off and write a story of the past, present and future of their town, design a symbol, and write lyrics to fit the chosen tune. These would be presented to the entire gathering in a rousing closing plenary session along with the reports of recommendations for action.
Campaign volunteers also had songs that we wrote for each region where we worked. And we sang at every one of our weekend R & R meetings. We sang at meals together. We sang in the morning. We sang at night. Whenever discussions got too long or too heavy, someone would break out into one of our songs and we were off. Sometimes we even danced. But always we sang.
One night as I was driving back from the Maine Town Meeting circuit, in the rain, heading for Harry and Ellis’ place in South Portland where I was staying during the week, I started humming tunes to myself to stay awake. Some of them were coming to me from my local church days. Then I started singing the words: “When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there!”
“That would make a great song for Town Meeting New England.”
Singin’ in the Rain – in Maine
Well, it caught on. We sang it at every weekend gathering of the New England teams. Harry especially loved singing it. Every time I made it back home for dinnertime he insisted on singing every verse at the table, with just him and Ellis and me. Harry died about ten years ago, but I can still see and hear him singing with gusto, throwing his head back and belting out the words.
I can remember only the first verse and the chorus now:
Oh Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts were the font
Of a future bright with hope and liberty
Then the hardy pioneers of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont
Carved a home from rocky soil and lusty sea.
When New England wakes up singing
And New England bells are ringing
Then her people all are swinging
To the beat of marching feet just as before.
Where are the songs that will sustain the movement that is spreading across the globe today?