The tale begins ten years ago, or perhaps twenty.
Campfire Chants – the music, not the title – was conceived around 2005.
Back in 1997, Reclaiming released Second Chants, the third in a series of chants cassettes(!) that included Chants: Ritual Music (c. 1990) and Let It Begin Now: Music from the Spiral Dance (c. 1992).
Among them, the three albums collected many of the chants and songs then current in rituals and classes.
Around 2005, Reclaiming Quarterly (aka RQ – see below) discussed recording a new album of chants from the 2000s. We collected a list of 15-20 possible songs, but recording an album from scratch seemed likely to take a while (little did we know…).
As an interim, RQ curated Witches Brew (2006), a collection of already-recorded “greatest hits” from musicians around Reclaiming. The process involved a volunteer team of a dozen listeners who helped select songs. The result is a beautiful album – but our list of unrecorded chants was untouched.
The list continued to grow for a few years, eventually reaching 30 possible songs. Various people talked about recording an album, but no rehearsals got underway.
Redwood Magic Proposes an Album
In August 2013 we held the first Redwood Magic Family Camp – a spin-off from the over-booked Witchlets in the Woods camp. At our feedback meeting on the final day, we discussed fundraising ideas, and someone suggested an album of chants.
Over the ensuing months, we decided to try to record a “family camps chorus” album, with the kids guesting on a few chants.
In Spring 2014 we sent out a call to the Redwood Magic and Witchlets elists. After some turnover, a consistent chorus of 10 people including a conga player and a guitarist settled in, plus a few others available for instrumentals and harmonies.
The group included three five-year-old Witchlets kids plus four of their parents. The bonds among the kids and parents helped provide the glue for our chorus, and carried us through 18 months of rehearsals and recording.
Rehearsing & Recording
The core group rehearsed monthly through early 2015, gradually honing our list to 17 chants. Our criteria were that the songs were written by Reclaiming folks, that we liked singing them, and there was not already a choral recording available.
We also evolved the “concept” of a circle of people singing around a campfire, and this became the guiding principle for arrangements and instrumental additions – a rough-hewn acoustic mix with lots of choral sing-alongs.
Recording began in March 2015 – a story we’ll share on the following pages.
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Reclaiming Quarterly and its predecessor, Reclaiming Newsletter, published a total of over 100 print issues from 1981 through 2008.
The publication covered a mix of grassroots organizing and Earth-based paganism best described as Magical Activism.
Since 2008, RQ has published online – occasional issues, subsections (such as our Pearl Pentacle feature and photo-coverage of major direct actions) – as well as collecting and digitalizing our archives, which include the entire 100 editions plus hundreds of other documents.
The RQ Archives include maintaining the earlier chants albums in CD and download formats. Recordings are available from our website or at CDBaby, iTunes, etc.