Attending a traditional Irish pub sing is an engaging and exciting activity for the whole family. The convention of gathering in pubs to make music as a group dates back centuries, rooted in the verdant vales and craggy cliffs of Ireland. Today, pub sings are popular around the world, but still harken back to their Irish roots through their repertoire and traditions. Sharing in pub sings as a family strengthens bonds, fortifies traditions (or creates new ones), and connects the family with the wider community of which it is a part.
Wait, I Can Bring my Family to a Pub Sing?
Yes! For these events, pubs typically swing wide the doors and allow guests of all ages to take part. If you’re not sure about your particular local pub, give them a call. They’ll be glad to confirm whether children are welcome at the event. If children are not technically welcome and you would still like to bring them, consider stacking one atop the other and wrapping them in a trench coat.
Despite the name, Irish pub sings are not always hosted in Irish pubs! Sometimes these are backyard or neighborhood gatherings hosted by folk musicians or a group of Irish people. They can also take place at fairs and festivals, or even move through the streets together like a jolly roving band.
Why are Pub Sings Great for Families?
Pub sings are a genial social environment where people of all ages can meaningfully engage with the same entertainment. The event is, by its very nature, interactive, and encourages participation by all attendees. Pub sings are a fun opportunity to provide cultural education, steeping children and adults, alike, in music and traditions that may be new to them.
Taking your family to a pub sing is also a meaningful way to spark a lifelong love of music in your children. The wide-eyed, wistful wonder that overtakes attendees at these events is not limited to the young, and seeing that sparkle in the eyes of one’s elders is inspiring. It is important for children to know that music is an activity, not just something piped through the car and the grocery store, and it’s important for them to understand how they can be part of it. Many people do not engage in music-making simply because they do not see a place for themselves in the field. By exposing children to the tradition of Irish pub sings, you are showing them that music is inclusive and interactive, and an invigorating aspect of community gatherings.
If your children already love music, Irish pub sings are a place where you can all explore musical skills together. At the most basic level, this group musical setting is a great place to overcome shyness and let the singing voice be free, which is especially challenging for some young people. Clapping, stomping, or using percussive instruments to follow the beat strengthens kids’ rhythmic integrity. If your children’s musical skills are more advanced, encourage them to sing harmony, or join you on a harmonic line.
Finally, take this opportunity to demonstrate how to be part of a community. Organic, intergenerational settings like this, where people of all ages gather together to engage in the same activity, are not terribly common today and are therefore even more valuable as educational opportunities. Parents and adults should take this opportunity to model healthy social behaviors and interactions so that kids have an example to follow themselves.
Tips for Attending Pub Sings with Kids
If you’re bringing your children to a pub sing, you’ll want to keep them fully engaged. Get a seat close to the song leader so little ones can easily follow what’s happening. This also allows kids an up-close view of any instruments that might be present! Lots of musicians are nice people who want kids to care about music. Depending on their instrument, they might let your child strum the strings, press buttons, or see what it feels like to hold between songs or after the festivities.
Throughout the event, help your family follow along. Turn to the right pages of your songbook, or search for the appropriate lyrics on your smartphone. Invite them to join you in singing harmony, or make up their own! Clap together, stomp in turns, sing out, quip, joke, and laugh. Treasure the time you have together in this special space. This will plant the seeds of beautiful memories which will flower in years to come.
Remember that children have different energy levels than adults. Keep an eye on their mood and body language, and know when to call it a day if needed. You may be able to extend their attention and good behavior with a treat like a Shirley Temple, but respect their limits. If you have to leave early and miss a favorite tune, there will always be another pub sing to bring them back to!
After the Event
In the days following the pub sing, engage your children about the experience. Ask thoughtful questions, and reflect with them on the event. Sing back some tunes they might remember, or remind them of tunes they might not. Many of the songs in the Irish folk repertoire have been passed down through oral tradition, so become a part of that!
At pub sings traditions are taught, pints are poured, and much musical merriment is made. These intergenerational events, these treasured traditions are one of Ireland’s greatest exports, and they’re a great activity for any family.
Feeling musically inspired? Learn how to join a choir!