From soprano, Daphne Romanoff:
Our upcoming concert, One Voice, is a collection of fun, uplifting songs about challenge, strength, diversity, and inclusion. This concert is also a fundraiser for Best Buddies, a terrific program for people with disabilities.
We have first hand knowledge about Best Buddies since our son, Ben, an NFS member with autism, participates in Boston College’s Best Buddies program, where BC students do fun social activities with disabled young adults, many of whom work at BC like Ben.
Ben, who sings bass in the group, also just tried out for a solo for this concert, trying really hard to nail those pitches with the lyrics:
"People see me. I’m a challenge to your balance. I’m over your heads how I confound you and astound you.”
I’m not sure if he’ll get the solo, but the process of trying out and practicing is certainly a learning opportunity!
Here’s a link to the essay that I wrote, together with Jack Cheng of NFS, a few years ago. http://www.newtonfamilysingers.org/jacks-blog/category/essays
Any contribution to Best Buddies is valued and, of course, just as important: come to our concert to sing, clap, and smile!
See you there!
Daphne and Ben
Our first Concert
Here, for the first time in public, some highlights of our first Newton Family Singers concert from 2010. The venue was Mason Rice Elementary School in Newton Center. Our choral director was Joel Sindelar who now leads a similar group in Jamaica Plain called Sing Positive.
Some things to think about as you watch:
How many people can you name?
How the heck did the kids get so big since then?
Why do the women look the same while the men have aged?
How thankful are you that we now have consumer grade HD digital videography?
We've had a lot of fun together over the years, haven't we?
Back to the 80s
We're going to have a great show this Sunday, November 17, 2013. The band is tight with a new drummer and loads of enthusiasm. The singers are harmonizing beautifully and a few of them are even stepping up to dance a bit. The arrangements and song selections are beautiful -- surprisingly beautiful for anyone who remembers the 1980s as synth drums and droning keyboards (only one keyboard part in our set).
More information about the concert and a link to tickets are here.
Meanwhile, here's a look back at a hot Boston band from 1980.
Shane Champagne was the shizzle back in the early 80s.
Their big single was "Shadow World":
I love that reggae beat anchoring power pop. Makes me think of Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives" or The Police's "Walking on the Moon." Or "Watching the Moon/Walking on the Detectives" (from Elvis Costello's Spectacle):
Anyway, back in the summer of 1980, Shane Champagne was a guest on local Boston television station WCVB (channel 5) . The station was one of the first to broadcast 24 hours, and "5 All Night" showed old movies through the pre-dawn hours.
They also had band promotions! Shane Champagne was releasing a 10" EP and appeared on 5 All Night on November 1, 1980. They were interviewed by Matty Siegel a DJ from WCOZ (which used to occupy 94 1/2 on the FM dial, now JAM'N 94.5).
Here's the intro with a performance of "Dying to Stay Alive":
love the multiple vocals on the songs, although overall, the tempos seem slower than would be expected in the hyper sped up world of today.Why am I spending so much time on Shane Champagne on this website? Well aside from local Boston rock history, they have a direct connection to the Newton Family Singers. I'll give you a hint: the bass player looks like he could rock a guitar.
One more Shane Champagne performance video from Channel 68's "Boston Live" from summer 1980. This is, as of this moment, my favorite of their songs, "Rockaway":
NFS' Fall Concert on November 17th!
We Got the Beat!
NFS Rocks the Talking Heads, R.E.M and Other Icons of the MTV Generation
Amid synthetic drums, parachute pants, Sony Walkmans, and aliens phoning home, the MTV Age produced some beautiful songs that stand the test of time. Now the Newton Family Singers will rock the house with music that Gen Xers (and those who love them) will remember well -- hits from The Talking Heads, The Go-Go's, Journey, R.E.M., Cyndi Lauper and more. With new choral arrangements by our music director, Chris Eastburn, NFS remakes the familiar for old and new fans alike
Sunday, November 17, 4pm
Newton Highlands Congregational Church at 54 Lincoln Street, Newton Highlands
Online ticket sales are closed. We will have a limited number of tickets at the door, so get there early if you still need a ticket!
NFS Spring Concert May 5th
The Tide is High
Songs Reflecting on the Water
Get ready to dive into the warmer weather with the Newton Family Singers as they perform their Spring concert … The Tide is High. Go with the flow, and join us for a program of tender, poignant and rocking water-inspired songs by an eclectic mix of artists including the Beatles, Lyle Lovett, Blondie, the Grateful Dead and the Indigo Girls. Sunday, May 5th, 4pm at the Memorial-Spaulding Elementary School Auditorium, 250 Brookline Street, Newton. Bring your family and come sing with us!
Tickets can be purchased ONLINE. Limited seating!
Getting ready to folk out!
I'm excited about our concert on Sunday, December 9! More information about the concert is here, and tickets can now be bought online here.
While this program retains our folk roots with some classic songs like "Circle Game" and "So Far Away," this is also our most rocking setlist. We have a superb electric guitarist in the band now, and he's really filling out some of the funkiness and psychedelia of some of Carole King and Joni Mitchell's grooviest tunes. Our bassist is also riding a high, switching from country rock to funk to arpeggiated ostinatos to tender ballads. Two other firsts for the band: a wind player and a drummer!
The kids are psyched -- in fact, I think all of them have a solo of one sort or another (even if it's just one letter of the alphabet -- you'll have to see it to believe it).
The women have a crazy song in Woodstock and they've added a little visual flair to the intense harmonics already cooked into that number.
The men are have a backslapping good time with one of the peppier tunes: Big Yellow Taxi. I hadn't noticed how goofy some of those guys are, but they're letting it all hang out this time around.
Alternate program notes
Hope you all enjoyed our Pete Seeger-themed Spring concert as much as we did.
In the spirit of Pete, we included lyrics in our program for anyone who wanted to sing along. Before we made that decision however, we had the fleeting idea that it might be nice to read Pete's own words about his songs, his friends and his place as a music maker.
So, here are the quotes that were gathered -- not all the songs are represented -- in case you wanted to think a bit more about the concert and imagine what Pete might have thought of it.
All quotes by Pete Seeger from Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singalong Memoir (1993) except as noted.
Oh When the Saints (trad; arr The Weavers, additional arr. Eastburn)
“In the Weavers, my main contribution was as an accompanist, a singer, an arranger. A finder of songs more than a writer of songs.”
If I Had a Hammer (w. Lee Hays, m. Seeger, arr. Peter, Paul and Mary)
“When I get a crowd singing, I sometimes joke that one can sing the melody as I wrote it, or as various others have changed it, all at the same time. Somehow they all harmonize with each other. There’s a good moral here, for the world.”
Hine Ma Tov
“As a last resort, [The Weavers] took a job in a tiny Greenwich Village nightclub… The Village Vanguard was an education. Into it came a wider range of folks than I’d expected, including Hillel and Aviva, two young Israeli musicians fascinated by us mixed-up Americans singing songs in Yiddish and Hebrew.”
“If singing were all that serious, frowning would make you sound better.”
How Can I Keep from Singing: Pete Seeger (1981) by David King Dunaway
My Rainbow Race (Seeger)
“Music as a group activity is more important than music as an individual accomplishment.” Charles L. Seeger (Pete's father)
Union Maid (w. Woody Guthrie, m. trad; arr. Eastburn)
“Woody’s ‘Union Maid’ used the melody of ‘Red Wing’ (whose 1907 author may have heard Robert Schumann’s ‘The Happy Plowman.’) But I think it’s more likely he (she?) remembered some old German folk tune which Schumann also remembered.”
O Mary Don’t You Weep (trad; arr. Eastburn)
“A notation of folksong in a book is like a picture of a bird in a bird book. It was changing before the picture was taken, and changed afterward.” Charles L Seeger
Old Time Religion (trad, new lyrics by Seeger; arr. Eastburn)
“For several decades a group of science fiction fans who like to write satirical verses to well known tunes have exchanged mimeographed songsheets which they call ‘filk songs.’ Who started this one off, no one knows, but it has so far accumulated over 500 verses.”
Put Your Finger In the Air
“Woody heard Burl Ives sing “The Blue Tailed Fly” (which Alan Lomax taught to Burl). And not one, but several of Woody’s children’s songs are based on this tune. Woody once joked… ‘I’m the biggest song-stealer there ever was.’”
Blowin’ in the Wind (Bob Dylan; arr. Peter, Paul and Mary, additional arr. Rick Sladkey and Eastburn)
“When Bob Dylan switched to an electric guitar at Newport in 1965 I was not upset with him. I was furious at the sound system. I wanted to cut the cable. Bob was singing one of his best songs, but you couldn’t understand a word, because of the distortion.”
Wimoweh (m. Solomon Linda, transcribed as Wimoweh by Seeger, additional lyrics by George David Weiss)
“The Weavers called me a ‘split tenor’ because I could yodel down from falsetto and also handle the shouting in key of G. But beware that your tenor doesn’t get hoarse. Solomon Linda lost his voice; so did I after 30 years.”
I love when Garrison Keillor sings, but I don't think he's got a very good voice. He keeps in tune but his voice is thin and breathy and especially sounds lacking when he sings with guests like Alison Krauss. But I love listening to him sing because he so obviously enjoys himself; his pleasure is audible.
I'm not a very good singer (Garrison could teach me a thing or two about being in tune) but I enjoy singing, too. That's why I joined the Newton Family Singers. (Plus, I get to sing with people who sing like Alison Krauss.)
Because Newton Family Singers demands a fairly big commitment -- a dozen rehearsals -- we know not everyone is going to join the group. So we came up with the idea of occasional community sing-alongs for people to drop in for an hour or two and sing together.
In January, we had a couple of dozen people request their favorite songs and make some fun and beautiful music. We mostly picked songs from Rise Up Singing so that people had access to lyrics. Some of us had generated a list of songs before the sing-along, but we also took requests and learned some new songs, which was great! (Requests made beforehand will give others a chance to learn your favorite tune.) We also had people bring violins, guitars and a ukulele and join the "band."
Our next sing-along will be on Sunday, April 17, at 4:30pm following an informal NFS rehearsal. Come 10 minutes early if you want to hear a preview of our Spring setlist.
Here's the official announcement (feel free to repost it to your singing group or school mailing lists):
The Newton Family Singers invites singers of all ages and abilities to a Community SingAlong. Come and sing with us on Sunday April 17, from 4:30 to 5:45 pm at the WabanLibrary. No rehearsals, no performance, no pressure — just join us in singing because it’s fun! Our main source of lyrics will be the folk song collection Rise Up Singing, so make sure to bring it if it’s on your bookshelf (don’t worry if it’s not). And if you e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and suggest a song, artist or genre, we’ll do our best to accommodate you! Acoustic instruments are welcome.
Many thanks to the Waban Library Center for hosting this event. Suggested donation to the library: $10 per family or $5 for individuals. The WLC is located at 1608 Beacon Street.
Spring 2011 Tour Dates
I don't think we're printing up T-shirts but we have an opportunity to sing at community events the weekend before and the weekend after our main concert, so I'm declaring this our spring tour.
We will be working out the kinks and singing in Jamaica Plain for the Wake Up the Earth Festival. Wake Up the Earth is an annual event organized by the community artists and activists at Spontaneous Celebrations. These are some photos from previous WUtE Festivals. The place and time of our performance is still to be determined but block out the afternoon of Saturday May 7, 2011 and watch this space!
Updated: We will be performing at 5pm at the Stony Brook T Station (Orange Line). Look for the people in the white shirts.
The next weekend will be the official Newton Family Singers spring concert! We've been putting on concerts for over a year, can you believe it? Sunday, May 15 at 4pm, we will be taking the stage at the Newton Highlands Congregational Church (54 Lincoln St, Newton, MA; they also helpfully provide coordinates on their website in case you're arriving by parachute: 42o19.274' North 71o12.477' West ). And yes, that's the weekend of Newton Open Studios. Go check out some artists, buy some jewelry or a print and then come listen to an inter-generational choir sing songs about the Sun, Moon and Stars.
Just to be clear, this is the concert that we're all geared up for, the entire group will be there and our adrenaline will be pumping. If you are choosing which venue to see us at, this is the one! Sunday, May 15, 4pm, 54 Lincoln Street, Newton Highlands.
Did you love those shows?
If so, you get a chance to see us again the following Sunday, May 22 at Waban Village Day. Hmm... well, hopefully the official website will get updated, but for photos from 2010, check out this Flickr stream; we're the ones in the white shirts. Location: Waban Village, time to be determined.
Special Bonus: if you come to all three concerts, we will "friend" you on Facebook! (Or just find us on Facebook and ask and we'll friend you.)
Video highlights from 2010
Jack Cheng directs the Clemente Course in Dorchester, excavates in the Middle East, and writes in Waban, MA.