Review: What is Humanist Song?

Where did all the singing go?! Many people remember growing up singing and regular singalongs around the piano but this is becoming a rare occurrence.
Barbara Chandler and Terry Ballard are leading a project to develop a collection of humanist music – for use as a songbook for communal singing and as performance. They joined us at our February meeting to share some music and lead a discussion about makes a Humanist song. This session was the first of many planned visits to humanist groups to get their views and thoughts about what such a collection might involve and hear suggestions about particular items that could be included.

Terry played guitar, sang some songs solo and led us through a few numbers all together. Everyone managed to join in ‘Imagine’ and ‘What a wonderful world’ but we were less familiar with ‘Mamunia’ or ‘Do Anthing You Wanna Do’. Most fascinating was the conversation that arose around how humanist the songs were. Would any general secular non-religious songs count? Or only songs that were more directly and positively humanist make the cut? There were questions of historical context (some, especially the younger people in the room, just couldn’t stomach ‘Melting Pot’ without the familiarity with the times it was written); of whether it was ok to write new lyrics to old favourites (with a funny version of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ handed to us by our President Barbara Smoker); whether some words could be replaced (‘sacred’ pops up in ‘What a Wonderful World’ but otherwise we loved the song); certain words that were ambiguous (‘spirit’ came up a few times and led to much discussion!); and there were suggestions of some current songs that could become singalong favourites.

If you have an interest in keeping abreast of this project or have suggestions or contributions you would like to make please do get in touch. You can email us at and we will pass your communication on.