Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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« Any stage etiquette tips for performers? | Main | How do I make people WANT to stay and listen to me perform? »
Tuesday
Apr102007

How do I get a turn in the filk circle?

SCENARIO: Grizelda is a filker who sings a capella and tends to be shy. She is sitting in a fairly large open chaos filk circle and after listening for a while, wants to perform her song. However, she has no idea how to signal that she wants to do a song because every time someone's song ends, another filker leaps right in. Grizelda has no obvious instrument, so the other filkers tend to overlook her. Eventually she gets frustrated and leaves.

What Grizelda could have done:



Sit where people can easily see her, like in the front row or inner circle. Even if she doesn't use lyrics, it might be good to have something resembling lyrics (even a sheet of paper) in her lap to clue people into the fact that she has something to perform. From Phil Parker: "The bottom line is, almost every filk circle will support you once you actually get over the threshold to get yourself noticed, but you have to start the process yourself."

When it's time for people to signal they want a turn to perform, Grizelda needs to find some way of getting attention. Suggestions from filkers included slapping a clipboard, strumming someone's guitar or having someone do it for her, beating on a drum or ringing bells, standing up, holding up lyrics, waving your hands. Make eye contact. Lee Gold suggested standing up and starting to sing (and sitting down after you get the circle's attention).

From "redaxe" on LJ: "If your song is a "follower", that is, it is related to the song currently being sung, wait until after the song and clearly and loudly state "I have a follower!" In most polite chaos circles, people will listen to you at that point. If there is a list of songs to be sung, speak up ANYWAY. Tell people you want to sing, and you can take your place in the list."

Ask a more assertive person for help in getting a turn. From Bill Roper: "Find one of the filkers who is singing regularly (but maybe not the one who is singing most often :) ). Whisper in their ear that you've got a funny/serious song on a particular topic and if they could find a place where it would seem to fit in and introduce you to the circle so you could sing it, you'd appreciate it. This usually works, although you may need to wait a bit until the mood comes around..."

From "vixyish" on LJ: "Grizelda can speak as soon as a song ends and say 'could I perform something?' Even if she speaks at the same time as someone is strumming their guitar, I've never *once* seen a circle that didn't respond to exactly that with either 'Sure, go ahead, and Bob will go after you!' or 'Sure; Bob's up right now, and then you'll be next after him.' I've literally never seen this fail. Filkers are marvelously welcoming and accommodating people, if only you SPEAK UP. Just say something."

If the circle is really big and aggressive, trying to get people's attention is going to be more hassle than it's worth. I've seen too many instances where half a dozen filkers start yelling "I HAVE A FOLLOWER!" the -instant- a performer finishes a song or recital, all trying to yell louder than the others. I generally leave to find a smaller circle when the atmosphere reaches this point, whether or not I'm in performance or listener mode. If Grizelda feels similarly, she might consider the following:

Look for a smaller filk circle, perhaps bardic. If there isn't one, then she should find some other filkers who would be willing to start one with her. From Kay Shapero: "In general when you see a lot of folks sitting around and only a handful singing, it's probably time to consider bardic or pokerchip."

What the filk circle could have done:



Keep an eye on the circle and help encourage those who seem shy or unable to break in. Without being obnoxious about it, you could ask, "I haven't heard you do anything yet. Do you have something you'd like to perform?" Sometimes just that encouragement will help a shy filker find the confidence to start.

From Scott Snyder: "I believe that asking a shy person to stand up, shout out, or otherwise bring attention to themselves is basically saying 'The solution to being shy is: Don't be shy', which of course, is not a solution to the problem.

The problem here is one of the circle itself, and what needs to change is not Grizelda's behaviour, but the behaviour of the group. Even a chaos circle should pay attention and notice when someone is possibly ready to sing, and offer that person a turn. Of course, the reality is - this rarely happens. Which is why Chaos works for small groups but breaks down in large groups.

Moderated Chaos is the only situation where I've seen chaos actually work across all skill levels of performers, and would mean that situations like Grizelda's would be minimized.

Now if ol' Griz is going to sit on the outside of the circle, with her head down, and not make any attempt to get the attention of the group - then another group is the answer for her. You have to be somewhere that you feel comfortable enough to stand up and be counted."

From Dave Alway: "A filk circle is a community -- a social -- event. At root, courtesy and etiquette, the morays of any social event, are the keys to a "chaos" filk circle that welcomes new filkers."

From Lee Gold: "I should note that this sound likes what I term Piranha Chaos, and is apt to frighten off shy guitarists too. The long-term solution is for shy people to form their own, smaller circles or for all the singers to be a bit less frenziedly competitive. Singers will feel more secure at doing this if the singers frantically struggling for the next song are queued up rather than having to compete just as frantically at the next moment of silence, and shy people may then ask to be put on the queue list."

From Paul Bristow:
"Ultimately, though, this problem really should be addressed at source: ALL performers, however good and however popular, should have the good grace to check around and see who else is waiting to sing, rather than just jumping in every time they happen to have a good follower. Be disciplined: Ration yourself."

ALSO SEE:

Any tips for shy or nervous filkers?
What's the difference between a 'bardic' and 'chaos' filk circle?


Trapped in a Chaos Circle
TTTO: "Computer Wizard," Cynthia McQuillan? (not sure about the
attribution)
Words by Justin Eiler

Notes: Sort of a first-person perspective on "Filksingers,
Filksingers..."

I'm trapped in a Chaos Circle,
The songs would make a brave soul shake with dread.
I can't get the attention of the singers,
And this filk-sing may go on 'till I'm dead.

I don't have a guitar to get attention,
(Or club the jerk who's singing ose--off key!)
It's been nine hours--I didn't bring my lunchbag!
Oh, will this circle be the death of me?

I'm trapped in a Chaos Circle,
So next day, when the filkers go to bed,
They'll find me dead, but my song will now haunt them...
It's that damn song you can't get out of your head!

Reader Comments (2)

[...] ← What’s the best way to handle mistakes in the middle of a performance? How do I get a turn in the filk circle? [...]

[...] How do I get a turn in the filk circle?4.10 [...]

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