Press-Citizen Coverage, April 2013
The Iowa City Press-Citizen published this article on April 14, 2013:
Family Folk Machine Invites the Community to Sing
The Family Folk Machine is a Senior Center group that started in January, 2013. We are an intergenerational choir that seeks to build community through singing songs with our neighbors, to explore American history and culture through song, to foster individual musical growth, and to pursue excellence as an ensemble.
The Family Folk Machine came to life after my family spent a couple of years in the Boston area singing with the Newton Family Singers and the Family Folk Chorale. We thought Iowa City would be a great place for a choir that could include parents and kids and grandparents together. Iowa City is rich in local culture, which can be reflected and augmented in the songs we sing in community.
The first Family Folk Machine concert will take place on Sunday, May 5, at 3:00 p.m. at the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center. The concert features songs that express love for places, from the global (“Wonderful World”) to the national (“This Land is Your Land,” “Power and Glory”), state (“The Iowa Waltz”), municipal (“Unsteady Youth”) and even the imagined (“Free to Be, You and Me”). “Paradise,” “Seven Bridges Road,” “Pastures of Plenty,” and “Country Roads” reflect on places full of memories from childhood or personal experience.
A few of the concert songs are not widely familiar. Alexis Stevens’ “Unsteady Youth” comes from the Iowa City Song Project, a 2012 Englert-commissioned album of songs related to Iowa City. “Unsteady Youth” sets the listener down in the bittersweet, transitory Iowa City experienced by students (or perhaps visiting writers: “We’ll go for a walk out in spite of the cold, where the sidewalks are paved with words over gold…”). “Beautiful City” is an African-American spiritual that imagines a city so welcoming that it has twelve gates. “Acres of Clams” tells the humorous story of a settler trying to find a place to make a living away from the empty promises of the gold rush. The story is set to a rollicking 19th-century tune that is one of everyone’s favorites to sing. I came to these latter two songs through recordings by living legend Pete Seeger, whose tireless commitment to getting people singing together is one of the best inspirations for the Family Folk Machine.
The Family Folk Machine concert will be accompanied by Deb Singer, who has helped us out on the guitar every step of the way, joined by Jeff Capps (guitar), Pappy Klocke (bass), Tara Dutcher (fiddle), Katie Roche (accordion), and Heather Widmayer (cello). Some of the Folk Machine kids will also play instruments. If you’d like to do some group singing before singing along at our concert on May 5, join us at Uptown Bill’s on Saturday, April 20, from 3:00 to 4:30 for a Community Folk Sing. This is an all-request sing-along using the songbook Rise Up Singing. Bring friends, family, and instruments for a fun afternoon of songs.