Family Folk Machine hosts first online mini-concert

Iowa City musical group Family Folk Machine will perform their first ever completely virtual mini-concert. The concert features five songs with an environmental theme and will premiere on Family Folk Machine’s YouTube page.



Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

This weekend, music lovers and folk enthusiasts alike can tune into the online premiere of Family Folk Machine’s special pandemic-era mini-concert.

Family Folk Machine is a non-profit folk choir based in Iowa City. An intergenerational musical group, they welcome kids and adults of all ages and backgrounds to sing together alongside a folk band.

On Nov. 15, the group will host their first ever virtual performance, which will premiere on their YouTube page. The mini-concert, titled “Songs for One Planet,” was originally supposed to take place in person last spring around Earth Day. While it was postponed, the performance will still express themes of nature’s beauty and the importance of environmental conservation.

Although the new digital format has changed many aspects of their concerts, it has allowed for some benefits as well. Jean Littlejohn, the group’s artistic director, said that even though the mini-concert will be different from past concerts and that she and the group miss getting together, the pre-recorded format has also allowed them to be much more accurate and precise with their musical performances.

“We’ve been able to create clear, beautiful sounds where you can actually hear all the different parts of the choir and band interacting to a degree not possible for us when performing live,” Littlejohn said. “We don’t usually make studio recordings of the songs we perform, and we’ve only made a music video once before. Seeing the creative videos our producers have come up with has been inspiring and fun.”

The concert has also been shortened because of the switch to a digital video format, featuring a set of five songs instead of the usual 10-15. Despite this, Littlejohn said there are still many benefits that come with doing a mini concert online.

Aprille Clarke, the group’s board president and video producer, said the group has been able to include new members who don’t live in the Iowa City area in its recent projects because of the virtual format, though she added the energy has not necessarily stayed the same as it was when performers sang in front of a live audience.

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“Community singing is an inherently social task, and singing alone into a phone recorder just isn’t the same as working toward a creative goal with friends,” Clarke said. “We’ve still been able to do some collaborating, but it’s a different experience.”

Part of Family Folk Machine’s main goal is to bring together a music-loving community. Associate Director Gayla Drake said the group hopes to draw in a wider audience of people for the concert with the digital format, but that they are also excited to share the final project with Iowa City.

“The Family Folk Machine has become almost an institution here, and I think it’s because we are all about love of singing,” Drake said. “There’s something so refreshing and heartening about that approach. It’s what got me involved, that sense of a community of hearts in love with music.”