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Arts & Culture

Two 'Ten Pound Fiddle' festivals combine in 2017

Roxanne Frith
Applause from Mid-Winter Singing Festival Audience

For a decade and a half, the Ten Pound Fiddle organization has been putting on the Midwinter Singing Festival. However, organizer Sally Potter says that for this year’s shindig at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing, it’s a bit of a two-for-one deal.

“Every so often we throw a curve ball.” says Potter. “We had a Beatles tribute band, and we were in the basement of Harpers for one of the nights. So, the curve ball this time, again about every 3-4 years, is we have changed the festival to be a Singing and Folk Festival for a number of reasons. Martin Luther King weekend, we’ve always done a big concert at the Hannah Center. Then two weeks later, we’ve done the Singing Festival. Well, two weeks later, it was hard to get the Hannah for that night. So, we thought, ‘you know, why don’t we back it up and have the singing festival of Martin Luther King. And have one night be singing and one night be the Folk Festival?’” Which is exactly which is what Ten Pound Fiddle is doing this Friday and Saturday for the 15th Annual Mid-Winter Singing AND Folk Festival.

While the two events are being more unified this year, each day remains focused on its respective half. For example, on Friday night, for the Singing Festival portion, Potter has brought a veteran A Prairie Home Companion performer who is based out of the Twin Cities region, Dan Chouinard.

Every so often we throw a curve ball. - Sally Potter

“And then Saturday night is the folk festival.” Explains Potter. ”We have three acts, they’re all going to do one set. 7:30, James Keelaghan, a marvelous singer-songwriter from Canada. 8:30 is the Sweet Water Warblers, which is the new group of Rachel Davis, May Erlewine and Lindsay Lou. And then at 9:30 it’s Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, who among a million other things wrote ‘Ashokan Farewell,’ which is the theme song for Ken Burns’ Civil War series. But they are mainstays in upper New York State/east coast folk music world. They don’t get out here very often, and so they’re doing a Traverse City-East Lansing weekend in the mid-west in January, and we’re lucky to get ‘em!”

Along with the live music opportunities at this weekend’s 15th Midwinter Singing and Folk Festival from the 10 Pound Fiddle, Sally Potter has included a documentary film about a legend in the folk music community. A man whose banjo famously said “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender” — Pete Seeger.

“We’ll feel the ripples of Pete Seeger for years and years. Well, last year the curve ball at the singing Festival was a sing-along on Friday and then we did a sing-along to THE SOUND OF MUSIC on Saturday. And Susan Woods of the East Lansing Film Society was the key person in that.” explains Potter. “I said ‘Susan, why don’t we show a film on Saturday? We charge $20 for a workshop wristband all afternoon. But let’s just put the film in there too!’ And if you’re going to pick a film surrounding the Folk World, there are 2, or 3, or 4 big films and one of ‘em is PETE SEEGER: THE POWER OF SONG. It’s a marvelous documentary and it’ll be starting at 11:30 on Saturday morning.”

There are indeed a myriad of events, workshops, and concerts that Sally Potter and the Ten Pound Fiddle have assembled during this weekend’s 15th Midwinter Singing and Folk Festival. You can see the full rundown online at singingfestival.com.

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