In Memoriam: Sol Weber

Longtime CMN member and beloved friend Sol Weber passed away on June 26, 2019, at Buckley HealthCare Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts, where he had been under care since suffering a stroke in August 2015. He was eighty-five.

Sol was best known for his rounds collection, earning him the nickname “Roundman.” His “Big Pink Book,” Rounds Galore, contains 340 rounds, old and new. A set of CDs, Rounds Galore, and More volumes 1, 2, and 3, presents contributions from a vast range of artists, including CMNers Joanne Hammil, Sally Rogers, and Pete Seeger.

CMN member Liz Benjamin recalls:

I first met Sol the one and only time I went to Pinewoods, to American Dance Week, around 1995 or so. We were standing in line outside, waiting for dinner, and this little man came along with slips of paper and very soon had everyone singing funny or moving or beautiful rounds. Sol was the Roundman! I have all his books and refer to them often. I once sent him a round that I had written, and he gave a thorough and valuable critique. As long as folks sing rounds together, he will be fondly remembered.

Sol led workshops at dance and music festivals across the country. You may have been lucky enough to sing with him at the Flurry Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York; NEFFA in Massachusetts; or the Northwest Folklife Festival in Washington State. He sang with many folk greats, including Issachar Miron, Peter Schickele, Christine Lavin, and Jean Ritchie. Pete Seeger once invited Sol onto the Main Stage at the Clearwater Festival to teach a round to the audience and lead them in singing.

The Rounds Galore and More Singers continue to hold community round sings, initiated by Sol in the 1970s, in New York City and Boston.

The American Center for Elemental Music and Movement awarded Sol their Summer Spotlight Award in 2018. On that occasion, Murray and Randi Spiegel and Evy Mayer wrote:

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. . . .

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.” Sol wore funny shirts proudly, including “I’m in shape: Round is a shape.”

(“Summer Spotlight: Sol Weber,” ACEMM 2018)

The CMN community and all who knew him sorely miss Sol. His rounds and sense of humor made every opportunity to spend time with him a joy. Clearly, Sol loved us in return, as he bequeathed $1,000 to CMN through his recently probated will. His generous and unexpected gift will go to the Pete Seeger Scholarship Fund.

Joanne Hammil shares her original round in Sol’s honor, saying, “It’s very short and musically witty, in eight-part harmony and with a play on the pun of his name with the fifth note of the musical scale; all with the intent of pleasing his jocular sensibilities. Perhaps CMNers who like singing rounds would enjoy singing this in tribute to him, as it’s both about him and also contains a dose of his signature punning and humor.”

Listen: Sol