Community Music Column in the Press-Citizen about FFM fall concert

Community Music Column for the Iowa City Press-Citizen November 9, 2019
Family Folk Machine

by Jean Littlejohn

On Sunday, November 17, one hundred people will take the stage at the Englert Theatre for the extravaganza known as the Family Folk Machine’s fall concert, “One Family.” The show begins at 3:00 p.m. and will feature singers of all ages, our spectacular band, a cello choir, and a 10-piece wind band. We hope you can join us in the audience! The concert is free, although we will be very happy to accept donations to sustain our work.
We’ve had a fun and productive fall session, with musical growth popping out in all directions. The Folk Machine was honored to receive a grant from the Community Foundation of Johnson County to fund our Youth Ukulele Project. With the grant, we were able to purchase ukuleles and accessories that Associate Director Nicole Upchurch has been using in our kids’ programming. We had already witnessed the way learning to play the ukulele can support kids in writing songs. With this new equipment, all the FFM kids can have access to an instrument.
Some of the kids will play ukulele in our November concert. Others have been playing during kids’ time at rehearsals, following their own interests by learning folk songs that appeal to them. Several kids sang and played ukuleles at our FFM Open Mic a few weeks ago. It’s a privilege to witness kids growing into their musical abilities and progressively taking more ownership of their music-making.
The November 17 FFM concert will sparkle due to five original songs in the program, plus another Iowa City song. The Folk Machine loves local legend Greg Brown, and we will perform his “Walkin’ Daddy” on this concert. In the August FFM Community Music column, I introduced Aprille Clarke’s “Little Disasters,” Susan Stamnes’s “Hidden Youth,” Nicole Upchurch’s “Let Her Learn,” and “Homeward Bound,” by Gayla Drake and Jerry Partridge. The fifth original song on our program is called “Sweet Mama Angel,” and it was written by Jeffrey C. Capps. Jeff has performed this song around Iowa City with his bandmate Tara McGovern, the wonderful fiddler whom the FFM band is lucky to claim as well. “Sweet Mama Angel” is an intensely beautiful song that Jeff wrote shortly after the death of his mother. Our arrangement pairs Jeff’s solo vocals with the full choir and Tara’s solo fiddle parts with a string quartet accompaniment in addition to the band.
More information will be coming soon about the Spring 2020 session of the Family Folk Machine: “One Planet,” a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. Rehearsals will begin January 12. In the meantime, hope to see you at our November 17 concert!
If you’d like to learn more about the Family Folk Machine, please visit or send an e-mail to