Sunday, October 21, 2012

Our collaborative experiment: Front Porch Folk

Draw a line on a piece of paper and it may or may not be something creative.  Add a lot of connecting lines and colors and it's more likely to turn into something special.  Of course, it all depends upon how it comes together.
Music is like that.  One voice - one instrument alone can be creative.  When a collection of voices and instruments come together just right - it's something very special.
For many, many years I've sung old songs that were most appreciated in nursing homes.  Through the years, I shared the music with friends who were marginally enthusiastic.  Who knew I just needed new friends!
About a year and a half ago, Front Porch Folk was born singing on Holly's front porch.  It started as a singalong time with Mary Beth and her grandchildren.  Then Deacon and Sue, Eve and Holly's parents joined in.  We began collecting fun instruments and more people came - each picking up something - little percussion instruments like an egg shaker, strum sticks, a washboard, dulcimer's, ukulele's....  Kathy joined and quickly fell in love with the upright bass.  Gail first came to sing and soon had her own strum stick and dulcimer.  Tasana - our only professional musician brought his kora and bellefon.  Then Ronda who pretends to be singing, found that she too can play an instrument or two.  We've had as many as 18 people on the porch - all together for our own pleasure - music therapy.
"Let's play at the nursing home" led to requests to play for other events.  We were all a little stunned when Holly booked us to play at Oil City's Jolly July 3rd. I can't name all the events we've done over the summer.  But I won't soon forget last night - the Hee Haw show at the Barrow Civic theatre.
I've never performed on a stage like that.  We were in the company of very talented local performers.  At the matinee my knee was shaking and in both songs I forgot the words - even with the words right in front of me.  That's like drawing and one of the lines just runs off the paper.  That's the great challenge of singing in a group.  Everyone needs to come together in just the right way.  We did ok with it, but I knew I had better to give.
The night performance was nearly sold out.  I'm happy to say I actually looked at the words on the page and sung them all.  So did the rest of the group!  With the spotlights on a stage like that, you can only see the first few rows so it's hard to know how you are connecting with the audience. When we sang a verse of "This little light of mine" and saw 30 or so people sprinkled around the audience waving cell phones, it was just like looking across the room at the nursing home and seeing people smiling and singing along.
I just love Front Porch Folk and the experiences we are sharing - from our pot luck dinner porch nights - to the nursing home - to events large and small.  I love the harmonies and layers of music.  I love how it feels to be in the company of these friends no matter where we are playing together.
With so many of us, you never know exactly who will be at a Front Porch Folk singing occasion.  I love that too.  Though I must admit that on certain songs I really miss the special things each person adds if they cannot make it.
Front Porch Folk is a collaborative, creative musical experiment.  Who knows where it will lead us and how long it will last.  I hope somehow it carries on as a tradition, passed on to many long after we are gone.

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