The Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival is returning to its beautiful island in the Fox River in Geneva, IL - and so am I! After an extended period off the road, I am heading back out. Look for me there on September 3 and 4, 2023.
In May, the Manchester Jazz Festival partnered with Forsyth's music store to put 13 pianos in public places around the city centre. Sites included two train stations, several shopping malls, and a covered pedestrian walkway. They ran a competition for short videos of people playing them.
I'm currently working on an EP of piano songs, to be released in November. "Purple Piano" is the title track, inspired by a public piano in the Oxford Road train station some years back. (It was actually on Platform 4 and I don't remember what color it was, but sometimes the sounds of the words are more important than the actual details.)
When I found out about the MJF Piano Trail, I went to scout, thinking I might get photos or video I could use to promote the EP. As I wandered from piano to piano, I realised that if I abridged "Purple Piano" a little, it would run just under 2 minutes - so I shot video in Victoria Station to submit to the contest.
After I finished this take, I found out that my most attentive listener was waiting to play the piano. "Do you know "Heart and Soul"?" he asked me. So we played "Heart and Soul" together. Later, while I was packing up to go, another man sat down and started playing Tina Turner songs in her memory. The whole thing was a beautiful illustration of what happens when you put a piano in a train station.
Many thanks to the Manchester Jazz Festival, Forsyth's Music, and Yamaha. I am now the recipient of a new Yamaha electric keyboard and I'm enjoying it immensely.
The Fox Valley Music & Storytelling Festival takes place just outside of Chicago, on Labor Day Weekend. If you've never been, imagine walking across a bridge to a city park on an island in the middle of the river. Tall trees shade the grass, friendly volunteers zip around on golf carts, and there is music everywhere you turn.
This year the festival is online, so you'll have to go on imagining the island, the river, and the trees. The music and stories are real, and you can access them from anywhere.
I will be playing for them on Sunday, September 5. The weekend's line-up also features Windborne, Small Potatoes, Lou & Peter Berryman, Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen, John Roberts, Frank & Allie Lee, Dan Keding, and Rev. Robert Jones. You can find the full schedule here. Events are listed in US Central time and the live stream will be available on YouTube. The festival runs, as always, on donations.
I've wanted to work with the Vermont-based vocal quartet Windborne since I first heard them in 2018. I love their gorgeous vocal sound and the blend of respect, playfulness, and contemporary relevance they bring to traditional music.
I particularly wanted to see what they could do with "Songs Stay Sung," which at that time was a lyric looking for the right tune.
Windborne toured England in February, and visited me in Manchester in the first days of March. Over 2 days, we worked out an arrangement and drove across the moors to West Yorkshire to record it in Brian Bedford's stone barn studio. It was the last piece of normal work I did before the pandemic upended everything.
I wrote "Songs Stay Sung" after fumbling for words to offer several people in my life who had lost loved ones.
The song will be available as a single on Azalea City Recordings on September 4.
This is the first completed track of a new project based around collaborations with other artists. I look forward to sharing more of these in the future.
Like every other performer I know, I am on hiatus from live performance for the foreseeable future. I am at home in the UK with my spouse. We are ok.
Being off the road is giving me a chance to do some important things.
First of all, it's far too long since I had any new songs. Now I'm working on new material, collaborating long-distance with other artists, learning to make some new noises, and generally making space for my creative process.
I'm also healing physically. I have a long and varied history of back trouble. Now that it is no longer being asked to sit for hours in cars and airplanes, lug around two instrument cases, and sleep on strange mattresses, my body is recovering. I am now almost pain-free for the first time in seven years, and off of ibuprofen after taking it daily for a year and a half. This is huge.
Plus the vegetable garden is awesome this year.
Please get in touch if you'd like me to do a live stream for your online classroom, virtual camp, worship service, retirement community, or other private group.
If you like what I do and want to help me keep doing it, here's how:
1) Subscribe to my YouTube channel.
2) Join my mailing list.
3) Support your local venues, festivals, and folk broadcasts so that they will still be there when it's safe to play live again.
4) I do have a tip jar. Anything that goes in it will be used to pay other creative people for goods and services.
The chorus of "Life Is Too Short to Fold Underwear" runs just about 25 seconds - just right for hand-washing in the age of COVID-19.
I know this because of Rich Warren's Folkstage concert on WFMT. The show is a live performance to a small audience which is simultaneously broadcast. In order to fit the format, it's necessary to end the last tune precisely on time - so it's really handy to have a song with an adjustable number of 1-minute segments.