Third Online Mini-Concert March 21!

Be sure to save the date so you can attend the premiere of our third online mini-concert! It’ll take place at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 21. We’ll have the YouTube link right here and on our Facebook page a few days ahead of time for you. This concert is the last installment in our One Planet series and will feature songs by Dolly Parton, ELO, and Billy Swan plus an original from FFMer Susan Stamnes and an original by the FFM kids about Hickory Hill Park.


Family February Machine!

February is right around the corner, and with it we’d like to introduce the Family February Machine. To keep our spirits up through the longest shortest month of the year, members of the Family Folk Machine are recording short music videos that will be shared one per day through the month of February.

If you’d like to receive the FamFebMachine videos, all you have to do is fill out this 3-question form.


FFM Spring 2021 Session rehearsals begin Jan. 10; join us then or thereafter

Things You Should Know About the 2021 Spring FFM Session:
• We’re planning to have two rehearsals per month, on Sundays, on Zoom
• We will not be meeting in person until it is really, truly safe
• On the weeks we’re not having rehearsal, one of the directors will offer a shorter event like a sing-along. You’ll hear more info about these the week of.
• Rehearsals will be about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes
• We’re planning to include these components at rehearsals: vocal strength training, ear training, sing-alongs, learning new or new/old songs, and socializing
• Our goal is to get more singing into our lives!
• Other goals: to eventually record a couple more original songs, starting with “This Machine”; to start learning some songs for our next in-person session, whenever that will occur; to increase our lung capacity, vocal agility, and musical skills; to get to know other FFMers better
• When you sing during rehearsal, you will be on mute. The rehearsal singing is for your vocal health and your musical learning.
• Home recording projects are completely optional; you don’t have to commit to recording in order to participate in our spring rehearsals
• You can keep coming to rehearsals even if you miss a week or more. Don’t worry, you won’t be behind.
• We will be having registration for spring session starting in a couple of weeks, but registration fees are optional during this time. Your presence at rehearsal is valuable and you should absolutely feel free to come even if you can’t afford fees right now.

About FFM kids:
Kids are welcome at all parts of our Zoom rehearsals. Most kids do not need more Zoom in their lives right now, I know. I’m hoping that the rehearsals will be beneficial for kids even if they are hearing rehearsal in the background while they’re doing something else. Parents can model by singing heartily along with all our rehearsal activities, and kids will absorb and join in on their own schedule.

How to do it: if you want to join us for rehearsal, just send an email to Jean. Use the “contact” button here on our website!


Links for January 1 online concert!

We are excited to launch our second online mini-concert with a YouTube premiere at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 1! You can watch here:

Join us on Zoom to chat before and after the concert! Everyone who joins the Zoom will be entered into a drawing for an Iowa City prize: gift cards from Oasis and Big Grove. Here’s the Zoom info:
Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 925 5861 6407
Passcode: famfolk

And here’s a document with lyrics for the songs in this set:


Grant support!

The virtual choir project we have been working on since last June has involved lots of unbudgeted expenses and extra labor hours from many people. The Family Folk Machine is grateful to have received grant support to help defray these expenses. Last fall we were awarded a grant from the City of Iowa City Public Art Program to help compensate the guest musicians who recorded instrumental parts for the songs in our virtual project. We received a grant from the Community Foundation of Johnson County to help cover equipment and software and extra labor hours by staff. And just last week we learned that we were awarded a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, funded by the CARES act, to help defray expenses that were incurred by the pandemic. We appreciate our state and community for supporting the arts! We hope everyone who can right now is finding ways to support artists and arts venues so that they can continue enriching our lives when we get to the After times.


Lyrics for November 15 Online Concert

Family Folk Machine Lyrics for November 15 Online Concert

That Cause Can Neither Be Lost Nor Stayed
(lyrics in video)

My Rainbow Race
One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shores
One earth so green and round, who could ask for more
And because I love you, I’ll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race it’s too soon to die
Some folks want to be like an ostrich, bury their heads in the sand
Some hope that plastic dreams can unclench all those greedy hands
Some want to take the easy way: poisons, bombs, they think we need ‘em
Don’t you know you can’t kill all the unbelievers—there’s no shortcut to freedom
Go tell all the little children, tell their mothers and fathers too
Now’s our last chance to learn to share what’s been given to me and to you

Out in the Country
Whenever I need to leave it all behind or feel the need to get away
I find a quiet place far from the human race, out in the country
Before the breathing air is gone, before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime
Out where the rivers like to run, I stand alone and take back something worth remembering
Whenever I feel them closing in on me or need a bit of room to move
When life becomes too fast, I find relief at last, out in the country

This Is Home
Touch the earth, drink the water, breathe the air, feel the sun
This is home, there is no other; we are all part, we are all one
Held in velvet sparkling wonder, royal azure, home to all
We are stewards for the future; we must stand or we will fall
Creatures call in every season; wild the hope both day and night
The green youth of spring is a beacon, winter’s frost a guiding light
Perfect peace is Earth’s greatest treasure; waters, peaks, and shifting sands
Stewards call us to work together with open hearts and healing hands

Fall on Me
There’s the problem: feathers, iron, bargain buildings, weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground before the weight can leave the air
Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky
Don’t fall on me (it’s gonna fall) (what is it up in the air for? If it’s there for long, it’s over me)
There’s a progress, we have found a way to talk around the problem
(when the rain, when the children reign)
Building towered foresight isn’t anything at all
(keep your conscience in the dark, melt the statues in the park)
Buy the sky and sell the sky and bleed the sky and tell the sky
Don’t fall on me (it’s gonna fall) (what is it up in the air for? If it’s there for long, it’s over me)
Well I would keep it above, but then it wouldn’t be sky anymore
So if I send it to you, you’ve got to promise to keep it whole
Buy the sky and sell the sky and lift your arms up to the sky and ask the sky and ask the sky
Don’t fall on me (it’s gonna fall) (what is it up in the air for? If it’s there for long, it’s over me)


Links for Nov. 15 online concert

Hope you can join us at 3:00 (Central Standard time) on Sunday, November 15 for the YouTube Premiere of our first online One Planet concert! You can watch the concert here:

You can also join us on Zoom before and/or after the concert to chat about the songs:

Meeting ID: 950 0665 5217
Passcode: famfolk

We’ll have the Zoom-ers on mute during the concert.
If you’d like to be entered in our prize drawing, all you need to do is join the Zoom by 3:15. We’ll announce the drawing winners (2 prizes!) on Zoom at the end of the concert. (The prizes are local Iowa City gift cards.)


How to watch the FFM online concert on Nov. 15

Hello, friends! We are gearing up for our first-ever online concert! It will start at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 15; here’s the link:

If you’d like to join our chat, use this Zoom link:

You can use two different devices, one playing the concert on YouTube and the other logged in to the Zoom room for chatting, or else open both on one device. You’ll want to keep watching the YouTube broadcast while the concert is playing, though. We’ll have the Zoom open at least 15 minutes prior to the concert starting so people can chat. When the concert is starting, we’ll want everyone to mute (although you can still use the chat function in Zoom if you want). And we’ll keep the Zoom open after the concert for a bit of an after party.

We’re going to have a prize drawing during the concert! If you’d like to be entered into the prize drawing, all you need to do is join the Zoom by about the middle of the concert. We’ll do the drawing as the last song is starting and post the results in the Zoom chat. We have two prizes: $10 gift certificates to Oasis and to Monica’s. Thanks to these businesses for donating prizes!

Of course, after the concert premiere is over the YouTube link will be available for watching or rewatching or sharing anytime. The songs will be available to watch and share individually at that time as well. We expect this first mini-concert to last just under 25 minutes.

When we started this project, I had no idea we could create videos like this! Many, many thanks are due to our video editors: Aprille Clarke, Susan Spears, and Susan Stamnes. And our directors, Jean, Gayla, and Jon, have been working pretty hard, too. We are very excited for this premiere.


Press-Citizen article on our upcoming online mini-concert

If you’d like to see the version of the story that includes a few stills from our videos, check it out here:

And here’s the text-only version:

by Jean Littlejohn

The Family Folk Machine is excited to announce our First-Ever Special Pandemic-Era Online Mini-Concert! Join us at a YouTube Premiere on Sunday, November 15 at 3:00 p.m. for the launch of five song videos. Several days before the event, we’ll publish a dedicated link on our website,, and on our Facebook page. We’ll have a Zoom session concurrently if you’d like to chat about the songs during or afterward, and we’re even going to have a drawing for prizes.

Last June, we began making recorded versions of the songs the FFM was rehearsing this spring before the pandemic shut things down. The spring concert was going to be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, so the songs express themes about the love of nature, conservation, and concern about environmental degradation.

In this first set, we’ll present “Out in the Country,” a song made popular by the band Three Dog Night. It celebrates the restorative properties of nature for human well-being. “That Cause Can Neither Be Lost Nor Stayed” is also a celebration of nature, admiring the natural world’s power, wisdom, and resilience.

This first mini-concert features one brand-new original song, “This Is Home,” cowritten by FFM Associate Director Gayla Drake, Susan Spears, and myself. The song is accompanied by our FFM cello choir, and it reflects on humanity’s place as part of nature in unity with other creatures. We’re looking forward to presenting the world premiere of this song!

Pete Seeger’s song “My Rainbow Race” is a call to human unity based on the fact that we all share this earth. “One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shores, one earth so green and round, who could ask for more?” The sheer abundance of natural beauty calls us to do better, to work with each other to solve our problems, to “give it one more try.” FFM video producer Aprille Clarke set this song with images of protests and social action to show people working to make our society more just and sustainable.

The mini-concert ends with R.E.M.’s “Fall on Me,” and our video production team had an enjoyable but unresolved discussion about the meaning of this song. FFM video producer Susan Stamnes created a visual representation of some of the difficulties we’ve faced in 2020 but also the ways people are engaging in activities that help. The result is fun to watch, and the video will become a good way for us to remember this period of our lives.

Hope you can tune in on November 15! Our aim is to bring a feeling of community and hope and perhaps even some laughter in a time when all those things are in short supply. Finding a way to keep singing and to be together while separated is going to help us through.

If you’d like to learn more about the Family Folk Machine, please visit or send an e-mail to

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