This is a family tradition which has survived into the days of Tivo and iPods. When I was a mere tad, we would have parties, with family and a few close friends, and my Uncle Marvin, who went to Julliard, used to accompany the group's renditions of various songs on the piano, mostly showtunes (Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers especially), although around Christmas my father was famous for bellowing "Five Gold Rings" at the appropriate moment in "The Twleve Days of Christmas."
This family tradition still lives, although many of the original singers have passed. When we were young, my sister tried to convince me I couldn't carry a tune. It took me about 40 years to get over it, and now I sing in a chorus. So there!
Electronics are marvelous in their way, but there is a lot to be said for making one's own music, and for the whole family doing it together. Perhaps, now that you can post video on the Internet for next to nothing, and there are programs like Garage Band, people will get back to making more of their own music. But I doubt it will be an intergenerational affair as it once was, as in the closing scene of Cold Mountain.
The common musical repertory across generations is gone, along with the piano and embroidery as young ladies' "accomplishments.". As in prisons, what music to listen to can be a source of conflict in families, and the young self-segregate, to a degree, according to their musical tastes. By the time my girls were in kindergarten, we had to allocate days of the week on which each of us could dictate what music would be played in the car. They still bring their own CD's or an iPod with their songs. There are some songs, though, that everyone likes and sings along with. And some are showtunes, Wicked and Chicago ranking as current favorites. Is "Cell Block Tango" too raunchy for a 13-year-old? I'm not certain; middle-schoolers are at times drawn to the macabre. In any case, that horse has left the barn, and the girls sing the song, risqué or not, quite well.
By the way, the allusion in the title of this post is to Shakespeare's Henry the IVth, Part One:
Now I perceive the devil understands Welsh;
And 'tis no marvel he is so humorous.
By'r lady, he is a good musician.
Then should you be nothing but musical for you are
altogether governed by humours. Lie still, ye thief,
and hear the lady sing in Welsh.
I had rather hear Lady, my brach, howl in Irish.
Wouldst thou have thy head broken?
Then be still.
Neither;'tis a woman's fault.
Now God help thee!
To the Welsh lady's bed.
Peace! she sings.