A week after the large-scale Solstice celebration in NYC, we held a smaller one in Boston at Citadel house, with around 20 people attending. The content was essentially a subset (given below) of the 2012 NYC solstice set list - a mix of silly and serious songs and readings, and following a thematic progression from light to darkness and back to light. We had several people leading songs - Julia, Beth, Janos and me, with Jeff accompanying on the piano, and everyone else singing along using the slides. Here is a video of our rendition of Mindspace is Deep and Wide, courtesy of Julia.
A number of things went well about our celebration. The number of people was just right for keeping it cozy and personal, and fitting into the Citadel living room. It was great to have a variety of lead singers, and the others sang along readily. The piano accompaniment was especially awesome, and created a more solemn atmosphere. A highlight of the evening was Jim's inspirational and touching speech during the Moment of Darkness. The light-dark-light progression worked quite well with this subset of the original set list. The ceremony lasted for 90 minutes, which was a good length for immersing the audience without dragging on for too long. There was a decent amount of free-form discussion before and after the event, with some nice potluck food.
The parts that didn't go as well mostly had to do with last-minute preparation on our part. The event was planned during the preceding week, so we could have used a few more rehearsals of the songs and even more instrumental accompaniment (this time about half were acapella). We also went through the songs a little quickly, and many of them could have used more introduction or explanation. Next year, we will probably involve even more people in leading the songs, and it would be great to vary the set list and add more songs that have personal significance to the people involved. (This year, we added Jewel in the Night, composed on the International Space Station, which worked really well with the event theme.)
Another improvement would be to avoid disruptions caused by latecomers. Both in NYC last year and in Boston this year, there were people who rang the doorbell and came in during intense solemn portions of the event. As Jeff suggested, it would be a good idea to request ahead of time for people to arrive before time X, and to have a sign on the door saying "if it's after time X please come back after time Y".
I am really grateful to everyone who made this event happen, and to Ray for putting together the original materials. Singing rationalist-themed songs with friends felt awesome, and it seems like something we should probably do more than once a year!
Here is the set list we used:
Ballad of Barry the Em(ulation)
Second Litany of Tarski: If I'm going to be outcompeted by simulated brains...
The X Days of X-Risk
Third Litany of Tarski: If humanity will be wiped out by unfriendly AI...
When I Die
Moment of Darkness