Press-Citizen column about Nov. 12 concert, “Homegrown Harmony”

The Press-Citizen published this column by Jean about our November 12 concert at the Englert:

The Family Folk Machine presents a fall concert, “Homegrown Harmony: Celebrating a Decade of Song!” on Sunday, Nov. 12, at 3:00 p.m. at the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City. The concert is free and open to all, with donations accepted, and we would love to see you there!

Eleven years ago, the Family Folk Machine (more accurately, the to-be-named family folk choir) was just a twinkle in the eye of a few Iowa Citians. My family had just returned from a two-year stay in the Boston area, where my small children and I had a great time singing with an intergenerational choir. I really wanted them to have the opportunity to be part of a musical experience where children and adults of all ages and backgrounds could participate and contribute equally.

When we held the first FFM rehearsal in January 2013, I was amazed by the people who showed up. The Machine has grown from that point, adding singers, instrumentalists, and leaders who brought new ideas that have taken the group in directions I never could have dreamed up on my own. The FFM has become, in the words of one participant, “a non-auditioned, intergenerational community choir that supports its members and the wider community through music, working to promote understanding, acceptance, equality, and social justice through song.”

“Homegrown Harmony” includes six brand-new original songs that are the product of the tenth-anniversary songwriting workshops the FFM held last spring. FFM kids worked with local musician Nicole Upchurch and created a beautiful song titled “I Want to Sing,” which they will premiere at the concert. FFM adults worked in groups under the direction of Christine Moad, learning about song construction and how to generate song lyrics. These workshops resulted in four wonderful group songs in contrasting styles and with widely varying subject matter. It has been a deep pleasure to experience the creativity of our singers in this new way!

The concert will also feature a new song by Janet Lessner, a Folk Machinist who had not been a songwriter before participating in Christine Moad’s workshop. Janet wrote a beautiful, moving song of support and love for the children of the FFM and all children in these times when being yourself is not always simple, easy, or welcomed. The concert also includes reflections on intergenerational relationships from Allison Russell (“You’re Not Alone”), prophetic messages from Bob Dylan (“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”) and Patti Smith (“People Have the Power”), and a beautiful tribute to departed FFM singers (Pete Seeger’s “Old Brown Earth”).

Hope you can join us on Sunday, Nov. 12 for this celebration of ten years of the Family Folk Machine!