Gazette: Family Folk Machine combines singing, teaching, and fun

GazettelongHere’s the latest good press about the Family Folk Machine from the Cedar Rapids Gazette!

IOWA CITY — A group of Iowa City musicians with a common love of music and performance are looking for members who share their passion to join the fun.

Family Folk Machine is a non-auditioned choir made up of community members with a range of skill and experience. Members hail primarily from Iowa City and range from age four to 86, said Director Jean Littlejohn. Performers of all backgrounds are welcome.

Littlejohn modeled the group after similar choirs her family participated in Boston called the Newton Family Singers and Family Folk Chorale, she said.

“I knew we were going to be moving back to Iowa City and I thought that sort of model for a community group would work here,” Littlejohn said. “We moved back and I talked to some people and got connected at the senior center and that allowed us to start right up.”

The group is supported by the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center. Family Folk Machine aims to be a community building organization through three main pillars: singing songs with neighbors, learning about American history and culture through song and improving the individual musical skills of members, Littlejohn said.

Over the past two and a half years, the group has performed throughout the Corridor. For Aprille Clarke, who joined when the group first began, her most memorable performances happen at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City.

“It’s always fun when we get to do a show at the Englert,” she said. “You just feel so fancy like the big names who sing there, it’s exciting to be in that environment.”

Clarke now has two sons, Miles Crall, 7, and Tobin Crall, 4, who also participate in the choir with her.

“I was looking for an artistic type activity that I could get involved with and have it be a family activity,” she said. “I just enjoyed singing recreationally and it seemed like a good opportunity for us to do something fun and educational at the same time.”

Littlejohn said she finds a way to stretch each participant in the 60-member group musically.

“Some of the people who already have a lot of experience singing, maybe they sing a solo on a certain song and it’s the first time they’ve sung a solo in front of an audience,” she said. “Or for some of the kids, they learn to sing in harmony with another kid and that’s a new experience for them.”

For some children, participating in the choir gives them their first opportunity to play in an instrumental quartet ensemble, she said. Adult members also get to take on teaching opportunities within the choir.

Those interested in joining the choir can contact Littlejohn for more information or visit the website to track the group’s upcoming events.