Wednesday, October 13, 2010

German Drinking Songs (Oktoberfest!) Writing Challenge

I remember very little from my high school German class. I remember Mrs. Durrant's eyeglasses on a chain. I remember Jamie White and I repeated a hundred thousand times the line from our textbook, "Ich heisse Liese Lehman." My name is Lisa Lehman. Nice. So useful when I actually went to Germany. I remember ein, zwei, drei--one, two, three.

Steven Green and LaRoy Dailey were in there. They wore pearl snap shirts. It was the 80's in Idaho. Of course they wore pearl snap shirts.

The German I remember most is the drinking song Mrs. Durrant taught us. We sang it often, at the top of our lungs. We learned all three verses. We waved our pretend beer steins in the air during the "ja, ja, ja, ja" chorus.

I can still sing that song. Sometimes I sing it to my kids as we drive to school in the car. My toddler screams at me to stop singing. (Not just that song. Always. Should that hurt my feelings?) I still wave my hand in the air.

Drinking songs. They're good fun! (But remember: Even a rousing chorus of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" sung all the way through didn't cause me to abandon my teetotalling.)

There is a point to this. I'm getting to it. But first this:

I remember hearing or reading the story of the penning of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." You can read the story here. Julia Ward Howe visited a Union Army camp during the Civil War. She'd heard the soldiers singing a drinking song, "John Brown's Body" (which lies a-moldering in its grave). She thought there should be more uplifting words to the song. What self-respecting, good Victorian-era woman wouldn't? She gave us the gift of the Battle Hymn. I love it! Doesn't everyone?

Click here for a link to a video of it performed in magnificence.

Ah. So, approaching the point:

I've long wished I could write poetry. I don't do it often. It doesn't come naturally to me. I don't have a lot of music in my soul. I don't even read much poetry. But I do like hymns.

It occurred to me this morning that drinking songs and folk songs and already established tunes of that ilk have catchy melodies or they wouldn't have caught on. One of my favorite hymns at church is the catchy "Praise to the Man" set to the Scottish folk song.

Now, the point. I would like to issue an October challenge to my writing friends. If you have ever wished you could write a hymn or a song but didn't know where to start. If you're like me and it's easier to create poetry by wedging it into a previously established rhythm. If you have words but little "music in your soul" and wish to create something lovely. Or even if you're a great songwriter already and just want a fresh thing to try, here's an idea:

Dig up a folk song (or drinking song from your high school German class, but don't steal mine!), and set some of your own uplifting words to it. See how it turns out!

All this talk of forbidden drinks reminds of a candy I often avoided as a child. Root beer barrels. As a non-root beer drinker, the barrel candies held little appeal to me. Hard candy wasn't my sugar of choice. However, in a pinch, I often ate them anyway. Candy. It gets me. I have little resistance even to its less-delicious forms. There were generic barrels in the shape of wooden barrels, and there were the brand name A&W Root Beer candies.

I'm not sure if there was a difference. Some may have a preference for that frosty mug taste. I just chomped it fast to get the sugar down the gullet to where it belonged--the blood stream.

I found this picture that looks like a fabulous alternative to the root beer barrel straight. Mmm. Here's the recipe.
I think those candies around the bottom *should* be Sugar Babies, but I can't tell what they are. Sugar Babies? Now that's my idea of sugar.


  1. Fun idea! One of the knitting blogs I read is always written in poem form and I think it's incredibly creative. Here's an address to one of my favorite posts if you want to check it out-

  2. Hmmm. Not sure I'm quite up to the challenge yet-- but maybe I'll get inspired.
    By the way, I would LOVE to interview you on my blog and do a book giveaway. How does the beginning of November look for you?

  3. @Sherral--I'll check out that link! How creative!

    @Melinda-Thanks! How about after the 2nd?

  4. You're so funny, Jennifer! I didn't take German, so I don't know any drinking songs except for the ones in the hymnbook. ;-)

  5. Hello Jennifer! Vampire Gran here. I see you posted a picture and link to my Root Beer Cake. The candies on the bottom are Root Beer Jelly Bellys. Although I like your idea of Sugar Babies, I was sticking to the Root Beer theme. Love your blog, by the way.

  6. @Vampire Gran-
    I love the look of that cake. Thanks for the answer! Mmm. Jelly Bellies. I think that would taste good in the theme (better than sugar babies, but I'd just pull those off and eat them.) And, I must also mention how much I love the stripes around the outside of it. So cute!


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