Press-Citizen Community Music column about FFM spring concert


Here’s an article I wrote for the Community Music feature in the Press-Citizen. It ran Saturday, February 14, 2015:


“Let the wild winter winds bellow and blow; I’m as warm as a July to-ma-to.”

The Family Folk Machine is busy trying to bloom where we’re planted, learning songs about spring, farming, and vegetables. Greg Brown’s evocation of the essence of summer preserved in his grandmother’s canned goods, Woody Guthrie’s heartfelt critique of the exploitation of migrant farm workers, Buffy Sainte-Marie’s loving portrait of the men and women who work the land — these songs are warming our winter and increasing our anticipation of spring and gardening season.

We are looking forward to presenting these songs at two concerts in April. At 2:30 p.m. April 12, we will perform in the beautiful Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol in conjunction with an excellent exhibit at the Old Capitol Museum. The exhibit is called “The Land Provides: Iowa’s Culinary Heritage,” and it is part of the University of Iowa’s Food for Thought campus-wide initiative. Then at 3 p.m. April 19, the Family Folk Machine will present “Blooming Where You’re Planted: Songs from Farm to Table” at the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center. We’ll be collecting food donations for the Crisis Center at this concert.

The kids of the Family Folk Machine are rewriting the traditional song “When I First Came to This Land” from a kid’s perspective for our concert program. It will be interesting to see what the kids think is necessary for establishing their homesteads on the land. The FFM kids were happy to be included in an exciting local-music CD project organized by Kembrew McLeod called “For Kids, By Kids.” Keep your eyes open for more information on the springtime release of this CD and a potential CD-release concert.

The Folk Machine has another exciting project lined up for this spring. We are pleased and honored that the Senior Center, our parent organization, was awarded a grant from the Johnson County Community Foundation to support the production of an FFM music video. We are going to record the Tom Chapin song “Brown Gold,” a humorous celebration of the wonders of compost, and incorporate images of FFM members outside working in the dirt along with footage of our audio recording session. We hope the result will be a fun video that helps people get excited about composting, and we plan to share the video far and wide with groups that are doing compost education or anyone who wants to spread the word that “everything that comes from plants deserves to have a second chance.”

Singing about food is fun, even if it makes you hungry. If you’d like to hear some songs about tomatoes, greens, potatoes (regular and sweet), peaches, honeydew, carrots, celery, or sheep herding and new-mown hay, come out and join us April 12 or April 19! We’ll have some song-inspired snacks for you to munch on afterward in case you get hungry, too.