Press-Citizen Community Music column about FFM fall concert


Here’s an article I wrote for the Community Music feature in the Press-Citizen. It ran Sunday, November 2, 2014:

The Family Folk Machine presents its fall concert, “Peace Will Come,” at 3 p.m. Nov. 9 in the assembly room of the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center. The program will help us reflect on peace and freedom by bringing together songs old and new, familiar and obscure, sung by enthusiastic voices of all ages.

“Peace Will Come” is the fifth program by the Family Folk Machine, an intergenerational folk choir based at the senior center. Some of the songs come from the tumultuous yet peace-loving era of the 1960s and early ’70s, like Bob Dylan’s jewel “Chimes of Freedom,” the Youngblood’s lovely “Get Together,” Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” and Phil Ochs’ energetic hope for a new day, “What’s That I Hear?”

A small group of the older kids will help us adults hear John Lennon’s “Imagine” afresh. At first I was unsure whether the kids would understand what this song is about, so I asked them. “It’s about imagining peace.” “It means that whatever separates us should be put aside so we can come together in peace.” They have certainly helped me hear the song in a new way.

Two of the songs on our program came into my life originally through recordings by Pete Seeger. The tenors and basses of the Family Folk Machine will sing the spirited German folk song, “Die Gedanken sind frei,” celebrating freedom of thought. “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” which imagines world leaders agreeing to quit waging war, was written by folk singer Ed McCurdy but covered widely, including a version by the Weavers. This song has been used all over the world and was sung by East German children as the Berlin Wall was being dismantled in 1989.

Since peace is a world issue, we include in the concert several songs that connect with other lands and cultures. Tom Paxton’s “Peace Will Come” is sung half in English and half in Spanish. We have enjoyed learning a popular Israeli song, “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu,” whose Hebrew words, meaning “Peace will come upon us and over the whole world,” are offset by the Arabic word “Salaam” in the chorus. And “Both Sides the Tweed” is a lovely Scottish folk song about the need for freedom, but also respect and peace between Scotland and England, with the Tweed river as their border.

Our kids continue to amaze us with their musical talents. Some of the kids created new verses for a song they will present called “Deep Blue Sea.” This traditional tune was given words on a peace theme by John Bell when his young daughter started to worry about war. Several of the young people will accompany the Folk Machine on violins, cellos and drums.

We hope you can come imagine peace with us on Nov. 9. We also are looking forward to participating in The Englert Theatre’s Festival of Carols at 7 p.m. Dec. 9. This fun, free event includes singing along with a variety of local performers, a visit from Santa and hot cocoa. And in January, the FFM will start a new session with songs about food and gardening — fun and delicious.