SingOut! Magazine
Winter 2005
Vol. 48 # 4

Homemade Jam
By Bob Blackman

Excerpts from the column…

“Singing Together”

“In recent years, a “folk concert” has increasingly meant sitting in a hall, listening to a singer-songwriter or a group performing original songs, with little audience participation beyond applause (or maybe one or two token sing-a-long choruses). But in mid-Michigan, a series of events have started putting the “folk” back into folk music. These events are all about participation, and hundreds of people have rediscovered the joys of group singing through the Mid-Winter Singing Festivals and their spin-offs. …

(At the two evening Community Sings) the audience sang with gusto throughout both concerts, checking their programs for the words when necessary but improvising harmonies all over the place” and Robert’s (Jones) powerful “We Shall Overcome”, many people were in tears, and we knew that this event had a future.

In between the two evening shows, 1200 people roamed through the community center on Saturday afternoon and filled all of the dozen workshop sessions. …

About two months after the festival, the Ten Pound Fiddle Coffeehouse sponsored another “singing night” with Pat Madden (complete with 20-page lyric booklet), and then Potter and friends started a monthly Community Sing at the local Unitarian Church. Since April 2004, people have gathered on the first Monday evening of the month to sing together from Rise Up Singing (which is available for purchase there), taking turns selecting and leading the songs.

The Singing Festival concept has spread around mid-Michigan. (Joel) Mabus, (Matt) Watroba, (Pat) Madden, and Potter brought the idea to the Ark in Ann Arbor for an October concert. The Flint Folk Music Society likewise added a “Community Sing-A-Long” to their fall schedule, with Society members leading the audience in a wide range of songs… Back in East Lansing, the Ten Pound Fiddle booked Matt Watroba for their December 2004 “singing night”, and Pat Madden will do another in April 2005. Sally emails announcements about all of these events to her growing list of interested participants. …

To me, the spirit of the Mid-Winter Singing Festival is well encapsulated by the motto that Sally uses: “Where the songs are the stars of the show.” It’s not about one artist performing for a passive audience. It’s not about expert musicianship. It’s the joy of being one of many voices, joined together to sing some of the world’s greatest songs. It’s reminding people that they can make their own music, not just purchase it. It’s folk music, in the truest sense.”


Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2004 issue of Sing Out! (v.48#4, (c)2004 Sing Out!, All rights reserved.) If you'd like to read the entire article, you can purchase that issue from <>.

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