Contributed by Murray & Randi Spiegel and Evy Mayer

Elemental music making takes on many shapes and forms. It is music that a participant can make with relative ease and without much instruction in technique or formal study. The voice is perhaps the most elemental of all instruments. Bringing people together to form a community of singers could be considered one of the most ancient of musical ensembles imaginable. True to the varied nature of elemental music and movement experiences, leaders of elemental music making can spring forth from just about anywhere. The rounds singing master Sol Weber is one such leader and guiding light in the participatory music making community.

A well-rounded life

A graduate of Bronx High School of Science, Sol Weber’s early career was in electronics engineering, but he is most well known for his rounds collection. He has been called the “Johnny Appleseed of round singing,” the “World’s foremost collector of Rounds,” and his license plate confirmed his unofficial middle name: “Roundman.” 

Sol maintained correspondence with rounds composers and collectors from around the world. At singing sessions, he would bring a sack of manila envelopes, each stuffed with dozens of copies of rounds on slips of paper. His rounds events were featured on CNN and in New York magazine.

Laughter makes the world go ’round

Sol Weber

Sol would often open a rounds singing event with his trademark humor: “We’ve been doing these sings for twenty-five plus years, and we’re going to keep doing them until we learn to like it,” then he’d blow a kazoo to establish the key.

He would often quip: “Hold the paper up, it’s very light,” gently admonishing people who kept their eyes on the music, encouraging participants to watch and listen to the evolving harmonies. His humor could often be seen as well as heard; Sol wore funny shirts proudly, including “I’m in shape: Round is a shape.”

Over the years, Sol led workshops up and down the East Coast, including NEFFA, Clearwater Revival, Old Songs, Heritage Festival, People’s Music Network, The Folk Music Society of NY, Flurry Festival, Long Island University Folkfest, Beacon Sloop Club, Fast Folk Cafe, People’s Voice Cafe, Swarthmore College, Pinewoods Camp music and dance weeks, as well as sessions at Seattle’s Northwest Folklife Festival in Washington. 

Through friendship and song

These workshops and his passion for rounds brought Sol close associations with many famous singers. Foremost among them was Pete Seeger, Issachar Miron (composer of the song Tzena), Peter Schickele, Christine Lavin and Jean Ritchie. One of the high points of Sol’s rounds career was when he was invited on the Main Stage at the Clearwater Festival by Pete Seeger, a rounds fan himself, to teach a round to the audience, and lead them in singing it. He proudly showed everyone the photo of being on stage with Pete.
Seeger, Mayer & Weber at Clearwater Festival

Sol also led workshops for Four Part Gospel singing and Shape Note singing, and delighted in English Country dancing with his beloved Martha; he’s even listed as co-choreographer on a few dances. Sol’s other loves include puzzles, humor (often very corny!), math and logic challenges. 

Rounds Galore!

Sol’s masterpiece and most enduring contribution to the music community is his ‘Big Pink Book’ Rounds Galore, 340 rounds, old and new, from modern and ancient masters of the art. The rounds were accompanied by clever artwork, folksy stories about the round or its composer, with a smattering of jokes. Many rounds in his collection include contributions from elemental music educators, including Tossi Aaron, Elizabeth Gilpatrick, Joanne Hammil, John Krumm, Elliot Levine, Debbi Friedlander, Marilyn Davidson, Peter and Mary Alice Amidon, Keith Bissell, and Paul Kerlee (author of Welcome in the Spring)Sol had planned a volume two based on the blue staple-bound Unofficial Set of Additional Rounds, but time got away from him. Sol suffered a stroke in 2015, and since then has been in a rehabilitation facility. 

The “Rounds Galore and More Singers,” convened by producer Evy Mayer to bring Sol’s collection to a wider audience, continue the community rounds sings that Sol started in the late 1970s, and still meet in living rooms across New York City. The Boston-based member of Rounds Galore, Jan Maier, continues the tradition there. Sol’s voice can be heard on the three companion recordings to his book, recorded by “The Rounds Galore and More Singers;” Album 3 contains Sol and Evy’s interview with Pete Seeger.

It is difficult to estimate how many rounds singing groups and educators have found inspiration from Sol’s workshops and book. ACEMM is pleased to recognize Sol’s contributions to the elemental music and movement community with the Summer Spotlight Award.

One thought on “Summer Spotlight: Sol Weber

  1. Sol, Sol, your name is Sun!
    You shine with rounds, you shine with fun!
    To find a round, to whom do we run?
    Everyone knows, you are the one!

    -A round I wrote for Sol’s 80th birthday in 2013.

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