Someone asked me on Twitter how to go about getting a song in the Liberator Song Book to have it sung at Glee, and traditionally the process has gone:
- Glee hosts are drunk and need a wee, or not drunk enough and need to go to the bar
- Someone has offered earlier in the evening to do a song they have written; they are found and told to go up on stage so the hosts can go to the loo/bar
- If the song goes down well, months later when we are having a meeting in the pub to decide what should be dropped from the existing song book, and what new things to put in, one of us will say "hey, do you remember that song Wendy did? That was good. We should email her and see if she wrote down the lyrics and what the tune was"
- Wendy may or may not reply in time for the print deadline for the new songbook
However, in recent years some people have been taking advantage of new technology and submitting songs before performing them
by email or Facebook or Twitter. This strange new phenomenon is taking some getting used to, but we do still generally expect the writer of a song to at least join in the inaugural performance. For a song to be accepted by the new method, we generally look to the following criteria:
- It must be something we can get sheet music for - it's very rare that people want to sing a capella and even if they do it's hard for the audience to sing along to, and the whole point of Glee is that people can join in. Our pianist needs sheet music (unless it's a tune that's already in the songbook - we have several to Marching Through Georgia, for example).
- It must be something at least one of us can sing - you may or may not have noticed that when we do the anthems I always leave the stage for Danny Boy - Sarah can do the high notes and I can't. Bridges, Sarah, and Gareth all have songs they do and do not like to do for vocal reasons. We will normally try a song out and make sure it works for at least one, but preferably all, of us before we consider putting it in the book, because we're going to have to do it potentially for years.
- It must be a tune people will know - So a classic folk song, or 50s-90s pop hits are probably ok. Sadly, for me, obscure Alice Cooper tracks do not make good Glee songs. Although I still reckon I could do a Welcome to My Brexit Nightmare.
- The words you have written must work with the tune - the easiest way to do this is to have a copy of the original lyrics to the song you are relyricing and match it syllable for syllable. If you are very clever you can sometimes stretch or elide a syllable to cover a different set of notes to the original, but the more you do that the more likely it is to not work when we try it out.
- Preferably it should make us laugh - or if not laugh, at least have some kind of feels; Sarah Brown (Cambridge) is the mistress of dark pointed wit and poignancy, for example.
- Pick a topic Lib Dems love and you can't go far wrong - so obviously lampooning politicians in our and other parties is great (Guide Me Oh Thou Great Theresa, Arlene, It's a Sin), but also don't forget trains (Privatised Choo Choo). And Europe (Ode to Brexit). And legislative shenanigans (12 Days of Coalition). Or daft Lib Dem policies (Part Time Submarine). And if all else fails you can always just go sweary (Lib Lab Lie).
Hopefully that is of some help to aspiring Glee song writers. The traditional method will still work if you want to perform a song and see how it goes down before submitting it - your Glee hosts are thirsty people and there are bound to be moments you can take advantage of - but I'd be lying if I told you that the new method hasn't been more successful for the last couple of songbooks. You could, of course, try a hybrid method.
And of course the pub meeting still happens, it's just that these days we usually turn up to it with a sheaf of songs people have sent us and try them out on each other and advocate for the ones we like. The pub meeting for Songbook 30 will happen at some point over the summer...