One of the many never-ending tasks we’ve been working on for the upcoming summer — Kamaji’s 96th!! — is a revision of Kamaji’s Songbook. Over Ye Directors’ past 29 summers at Kamaji, we have written, rewritten, revised, re-revised and re-re-revised(‼) songbooks no less than 4 times and, with this next revision, yet a 5th time!! Each revision adds new songs and deletes those no longer sung at Kamaji. Now that’s not to say we “lose” all the “old” songs sung at camp “way back when . . .” No way!! I have a rather large folder that holds reams of mimeographed (see blog post entitled Kamaji Enters the Blogosphere to find out what a mimeograph machine is!!) pages filled with lyrics from songs that were sung at Kamaji 30, 40, 50+ years ago!! Now for veteran Kamaji campers-now-alumnae those “old” songs are “near and dear” to them (as well they should be!). There is no way that I would ever relegate less-than-contemporary camp songs to the safely-kept archives of the Great Spirit above. Nope — instead they are brimming from a folder on my desk☺‼
As much as I would love to include every song — past, present and future — with each updated version of Kamaji’s Songbook it is simply impossible. Imagine the Pine Manor campers lugging a songbook containing 95 years’ worth of songs to the PA in order to lead singing in the dining hall! Why that book would easily match the weight of a small-sized Hatchery camper(‼). Given that, you now have an inkling of how much song material I really have!! Suffice it to say, with input from our camp family, we hope to put together a great, but not overly huge, songbook!
For those who are new to Kamaji — you are probably wondering what all the “hoo-ra” is about a camp songbook! Well, suffice it to say that singing is a huge part of Kamaji’s daily ritual!! After every single meal in the dining hall, we sing no less than 20, 30, 40, maybe even more(‼) songs‼ You could say Kamaji would not be the same without singing!! And the louder all the better! And if there’s hand motions, stomping, twirling about while singing — even better than better!! Even if you don’t know the words to songs we sing at Kamaji, it doesn’t take long to catch on; that we promise‼
That all said . . . I was recently talking to a mom whose daughter attends the same summer camp in New England that the mom had gone to as a camper 30+ years ago. Somehow the subject of camp songs came up and this mom asked me “Do you have songfests at your camp??” “Huh??” I asked. She then went on to tell me of the camp’s annual tradition of holding a songfest.
If I understand correctly, this camp’s songfest is a competitive event where four of the oldest campers are chosen to each lead 1/4 of the camp population (at this particular camp, campers total over 300 so a quarter of the camp would equal at least 75 campers). It is the leader’s responsibility to choose assistants as well as a “team manager” to teach to the group new, never-before-sung songs whose lyrics fit the theme of camp.
Now mind you, the oldest girls at this camp spend the school year listening to songs, rap, r & b, country, etc., as well as writing camp-themed lyrics. Those who are ultimately chosen as the song leaders (I don’t know how the song leaders are picked) then teach the songs they’ve created over the school year to their camper groups. There is no accompaniment in terms of musical instruments — just the lovely lilting lyrical voices of the campers singing accapella (which is singing the best possible vocal music using singing voices as their instruments). Each of the four different camper groups spend hours upon hours upon hours learning melodies and lyrics, practicing, vocalizing, harmonizing, etc.— out of earshot of the other groups. And then there is the actual songfest when all four groups perform. The competition is fierce but only one group can be chosen “the best.”
Now I don’t know anymore about the event than that which I’ve just described. I don’t know who judges the songfest, what the winning group wins, how the losing groups feel . . . What I know for sure a “songfest” is not the kind of singing we do at Kamaji!! Quite possibly were the campers from the New England camp invited to Kamaji for a meal, they might be “horrified” to hear the “melodies” sung at Kamaji. After all, not all of Kamaji’s campers and staff members are trained vocally, not all sing in harmony, not all can read musical notes, not all know all the words to the songs we sing, and certainly far from all can sing on key!! What Kamaji campers do is spontaneously sing from their hearts to the lodge rafters and beyond . . . and most importantly, they sing without embarrassment to their hearts’ content with absolutely no thought of being judged. To my way of thinking — all of Kamaji’s campers win the Kamaji “songfest.”