It's never too early to promote good cheer

Holiday singalong to feature new verse of Lennon song — that you write it

This is your invitation to the 15th annual Songs of Good Cheer holiday singalong that Eric Zorn and I host with a band of terrific musicians from the Old Town School of Folk Music.

I know what you're thinking. Talking "Jingle Bells" before Halloween is as tasteless as Macy's opening on Thanksgiving.

But the only thing worse than thinking about the holidays too soon is letting them slip away in a haze of shopping and procrastination. A little planning can help.

So step away from the pumpkins for just a moment and think ahead.

When we started Songs, we expected it to be a one-time event. Instead it turned into a tradition for so many people that we've kept going. This year we're doing five shows in four days in December.

All the information you need is below. Come sing with us.

Where: The Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The Lincoln Square neighborhood is one of the city's friendliest, prettiest and liveliest areas. Come to Songs early or stay late just to hang around the pubs, restaurants, cafes, bookstores and assorted boutiques. Many people have dinner before or afterward; reservations are a good idea.

Who sings: You. No talent required. The band makes everybody feel like a star.

We'll give you a lyrics book to take home. Many people tell us they use the books to have their own singalongs.

Who plays: An ensemble of first-rate musicians and teachers affiliated with the Old Town School. Their instruments include guitar, mandolin, bass, banjo, clarinet, fiddle, trumpet, ukulele, accordion and washboard.

Eric plays guitar, banjo and mandolin. I play piano and just enough mandolin to prove that you're never too old to embarrass yourself onstage.

This year, for the first time, we'll be joined by a harpist who plays with the award-winning Chicago band Sones de Mexico.

The songs: We sing seasonal classics, sacred and secular, and throw in a few tunes you may not know but will hum for months afterward.

The contest: Here's your chance to win two tickets.

In honor of the Old Town School's recent acquisition of one of John Lennon's guitars, we'll be singing Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."

Unfortunately, some of the original lyrics are not suitable for this occasion. Your challenge: Write a better verse.

Your verse can be moving or witty. It can be topical. It can be political as long as it's relatively bipartisan. It must be singable and relatively tasteful.

It should fit the rhythm of the original song, which includes this verse:

Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout

Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism