"12,000 Girl Scouts Sing America's National Favorites" is a 33 1/3 Extended Play record recorded at a Girl Scout Senior Round Up in 1965 and released around the same time. As the name suggests, it has a vast number of Girl Scouts singing in unison.


    Side One
  1. The Star Spangled Banner
  2. America the Beautiful
  3. God Bless America
  4. America Our Heritage
    Side Two
  1. Roundup is Here
  2. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  3. Peace I ask of Thee, O River
  4. Kum-Ba-Yah

As we can see from the track listing, the first side of the record is patriotic songs, and the second half is campfire songs, both of which would be staples of a Girl Scout gathering. This is 1965, these are the Girl Scouts, so no surprises here.

One thing I was curious about was the logistics of recording thousands of people in an outdoor location. According to the notes on the back of the EP, this was recorded in Farragut State Park, near Couer d' Alene, Idaho, and my mind is swirling at how much space 12,000 singing Girl Scouts would take up, how many microphones would be needed to capture their voices, and how complicated the electrical cables would have to be, running all around a park that was in the 1960s probably pretty close to wilderness conditions. I suspect that this record does not feature all voices equally, but might have focused on a smaller (but still large) group of Girl Scouts that had the best voices and were situated in an acoustically feasible area.

But even if it was a smaller group, it was still large enough that it raises a problem: usually when listening to a singing group, even if it is more than one person, you can hear the voice moving in a natural rhythm as someone inhales and exhales. Each voice is unique, and communicates things through timbre and pacing that let the listener feel the personality of the singer or singers. But with 12,000 (or even 1000) voices, something like an uncanny valley effect comes into play: it sounds almost like synthesized speech. No single voice that we can relate to comes through the wall of noise. What should be cute and folksy becomes overpowering. We listen for a teenage girl softly singing "Kum-Ba-Yah" but find only an unnaturally regimented horde overwhelming us.

On the other hand, as an item of kitch that I bought out of a bin of singles at a record store, this does have unparalleled value...unparalleled, unless, of course, Columbia Records released a bunch of inventory material in an attempt to sell Crest toothpaste. But that seems to be a bit too far-fetched to consider, right?

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