Festival: ‘Open up the pipes and let it fly’
By ISABELLA J. ROWAN
from City Pulse: 1/13/03
Have you ever sat in your car at a red light
and noticed the driver next to you gettin’ down to tunes on
his radio? Mouth movin’, head swayin’, hands beatin’
time on the steering wheel, body pulsating with move and groove.
In the shower. Or in the car. From Christmas
carols at the piano to Kum ba yah around the campfire. In tune or
out of tune. From the American Revolution, to the Labor Movement,
to the recent antiwar gathering at the State Capitol. Singing is
a natural and vital part of human culture.
To celebrate singing for all that it is,
Double Play Sports, The Ten Pound Fiddle and the City of East Lansing
are sponsoring the Mid-Winter Singing Festival.
This is different from traditional music
festivals where singers perform and the audience listens. At the
Mid-Winter Singing Festival, the audience will be encouraged to
sing along with the song leaders and performers on stage. No one
is going to elbow you in the ribs and tell you to shut up.
“Come sing,” said Sally Potter,
owner of Double Play Sports, former member of the group Second Opinion
and brainchild of this event. “People will be singing songs
that you love and are dying to sing. And even if you don’t
think you can sing, you’re still going to hum. And even if
you don’t hum, you’re going to love being in a group
of hundreds of other people singing.”
Potter has been thinking about this idea
for years. She, with Second Opinion, was invited to perform at the
Hudson River Clearwater Festival in New York one year. Here she
was introduced to the “Circle of Song” tent inspired
by Pete and Toshi Seeger. It was packed the entire weekend.
“Why not have a festival where the
audience is everything,” Potter said. “They buy the
tickets, they show up, they sing the songs. The audience makes the
“I think this is a splendid idea,”
said Joel Mabus, renowned folk musician, singer and songwriter.
“Having a night or two devoted to singing, not just listening,
is way overdue for Lansing.”
With a multitude of community resources available,
putting the festival together hasn’t been hard. Ten Pound
Fiddle is doing what they do best – handling the money and
ticket sales, organizing the concerts, maintaining the sales of
CDs and other items. The City of East Lansing is hosting the children’s
show by Mark Dvorak of Chicago, which is something they do yearly
anyway. “This area has a huge folk community in general, especially
for its size,” Potter said. “There are so many resources
in this town.”
The performers lined-up for the festival
are local and laden with talent. They include Mabus; Robert Jones
and Matt Watroba, DJs for WDET public radio in Detroit, each with
his own blues or folk music show; Rachel Alexander, founder of Sistrum,
a Lansing women’s choir and music director at the Unitarian
Universalist Church; Mark Dvorak from the Old Town School of Folk
Music in Chicago; Pat Madden-Roth, member of the Second Opinion
trio; and many, many more
Festival-goers also can participate workshops
being offered free of charge Saturday at Hannah Community Center.
The workshops are family-friendly, food and beverages will be available
and there is ample free parking. “It’s free so there
aren’t any barriers to coming,” Potter said. “It’s
supposed to reach out as far as it can.”
“A lot of people love to sing, but
are shy about it. There is safety in numbers,” Mabus said.
“I would encourage all the closet singers out there, the shower
stall crooners, to put this event on their calendars. It’s
a chance to open up the pipes and let it fly!”
Besides singing great songs together and
having fun with family and friends, the Mid-Winter Singing Festival
has another motive. It has to do with the Great Lakes Folk Festival.
Potter loves the fact there is a free folk festival in town every
year. And she would like to see a “Circle of Song” tent
added to the Great Lakes Folk Festival.
“After three days (at the folk festival),
all you’ve done is sit. And you listen,” she said. “But
there’s nothing coming up from your soul.
“How can you keep from singing?”
she asks. “This is folk music. It’s music that is made
from the masses, created and passed along and sung. It comes out
of the mines, out of the sweat shops, out of the railroad industry.
It comes from Europe. It comes from Africa. It comes from everybody.”
A complete schedule of events and other details
about the Mid-Winter Singing Festival can be found at www.singingfestival.com,
or call (517) 267-0410 to request printed materials.