The Family Folk Machine Performance Set to Brighten Community

“Many Voices/One Voice: We Are One Community,” the spring concert of the Family Folk Machine, will come to life on Saturday, May 11 at 2 p.m. at the Englert Theatre in beautiful downtown Iowa City.

We hope you can join us for this musical extravaganza reflecting on what it means to live in community with our neighbors on a local, national, and global level.

The concert takes its name from the Wailin’ Jennys song “One Voice,” in which voices gradually add together until we get to “the sound of all of us, singing with love and the will to trust.” But when we combine all our voices, we end up with “one voice: one people, one voice, a song for every one of us.” Building a choir by adding together different voices is like building a community by bringing together people with different skills, ideas, backgrounds, and experiences. Our differences make our community strong.

The choir-as-community metaphor gets a good treatment in The Who’s “Join Together.” We don’t care what you eat or what you wear, you don’t have to move in any particular direction—we just want you to join together with the band (and sing along). Once we’re together, we have work to do to improve our community and our world. We’ll sing “With every voice, with every song, we will move this world along” in Ruth Pelham’s “Turning of the World” and “Make this land a better land” in Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” and we’ll follow those up with Wilbert Harrison’s blues tune “Let’s Work Together.”

Woody Guthrie teaches us that we can brighten up our communities just by greeting our neighbors and shaking hands. The FFM kids will invite us to be their neighbors in the classic song from Mr. Rogers, and they’ll present an original song they adapted from the kids of Prairie Green School about saying hello to new places and people.

John Prine draws our attention to neighbors who need a hand in his 2018 song “Knockin’ on Your Screen Door,” and the British band Field Music asks us to count up facets of our life that contribute to our privilege: “If you can go through day to day without the fear of violence, count that up…If you can turn on the tap and your kids can drink the water, count that up.” Once you’ve made a count, “Use the breath you have left to say something that matters.

“We’re excited to be expanding our instrumental palette with this concert. For the Sly and the Family Stone song “Everybody Is a Star,” we’ll feature the first-ever FFM horn section. Several songs will incorporate a string section, but “One Voice” will be introduced with our first-ever FFM cello choir: six cellos playing in harmony. Behind these rotating colors will be our stellar FFM band.

Hope to see you on May 11 at 2 p.m.! The concert is free, although we will gratefully accept donations to support our non-profit organization.

For more information about the Family Folk Machine, e-mail Jean at Rehearsals for our fall session will begin August 18.

Originally published in the April 26, 2019 Press Citizen.