Some of the best musicians in Iowa City and environs are not chasing a career in music. Keith Reins, for example, is a player and collector of folk songs who also works as a professor of English at Kirkwood Community College. After hours, you’re likely to find him at folk music sessions around Iowa City: at Hilltop Tap, Mickey’s or Uptown Bill’s Coffee House.
Reins is the guitarist at the session who slips jazzy passing chords into traditional Irish and Scottish tunes — verging on folk heresy — but always in ways that deepen and add texture. Reins approaches the depth of virtuosity and artistry of performers as revered as Bert Jansch and Nic Jones. There’s a nonchalance and ease to his playing that comes from countless hours sitting in a circle, playing with others just for the joy of it.
Category Archives: community
There is always magic to be found at the Iowa State Fair!
Our first stop was Pioneer Hall for the Iowa State Fair Fiddlers Contest. The friendly face of David Bellegante, 9 Time State Grand Champion Fiddler and the annual host of the Iowa State Fair Fiddle Contest, is always a welcome sight. I’ve been bringing my fiddle students to this contest for years and I’m always impressed by how David takes time to connect with each fiddler and prepare them for their turn on the big stage. He is as kind as he is talented. I love his t-shirt here captioned: “I Might Look Like I’m Listening To You But In My Head, I’m Playing The Fiddle.” He is accompanied by Michelle Bell on piano who is also an outstanding fiddler and teacher with a long legacy of music making in Iowa.
Three of my students competed this year and they all played their hearts out and absolutely delighted the crowd. Eviva was my youngest student ever to compete and her composure onstage rivaled the most seasoned of performers. Eviva’s big sister Ania defended her third place title for the second year in a row. Nina took home the blue ribbon and is now the 2017 Iowa State Fair Youth Champion Fiddler!
Here I am with the other fiddlers who placed this year. I accepted Nina’s trophy on her behalf because she was already over at the Cattle Barn competing in the Spelling Bee. There’s nothing I don’t love about that sentence that I just typed. Oh, Iowa.
When I arrived at the Spelling Bee, Nina was already in place next to the other competitors so I had to silently mouth to her from across the room while holding up her trophy: “You won first prize!”. I thought her jaw was going to drop off her face. Truly one of the most fun moments of my teaching career.
Nina and Kat, the Junior Champion Fiddler, were featured on the KCCI 5 pm news playing tunes for the crowds gathered at the MidAmerican Energy Stage.
The rest of the day was a blur of fair food, farm animals, and carnival rides with the wonderful Denmead Torkelson family!
I am so proud of my three fiddlers who all played so beautifully and brought so much joy to the Pioneer Hall audience on Friday. I am one lucky teacher.
I’m thrilled and grateful to report that our friends Tom, Emily and Henry Landmann not only made a weekend trip from Wisconsin to attend our CD Release Concert but also took some much appreciated videos at the show.
There are 5 videos now posted here.
Thanks again, Landmanns! We are so lucky to have your support and love.
Borrowing from my charming, talented and articulate pal Jeffrey C. Capps because it all applies to me too (and why reinvent the wheel?):
Dear Friends,It’ll be a busy musical weekend for me, and I hope to see many of you!On Friday, I am honored to join Tara in opening for John Rapson’s must-see Hot Tamale Louie benefit for IC Compassion at The Mill. We’ll be performing a couple of tunes during the 8 o’clock hour and the show will follow at 9. This is a really incredible show and a great cause! More info here.
On Saturday, I’ll be performing twice as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. Family Folk Machine will kick off the afternoon with a 2 p.m. set at 604 Grant Street, and Jeffrey C. Capps and His Almost All-Girl Band will immediately follow on the very same porch. Grab your lawn chair, and come on out! More info here.
And if you’re one to plan ahead, please mark your calendar for Saturday, July 1 when Tara and I will make our annual appearance at the Iowa City Farmers Market. We’ll play from 9 until 11 a.m. on the temporary stage right outside of City Hall!
Thanks so much!
Sound as ever,JCC
I also have two other related events this weekend: at 4 pm on Saturday, I am honored to accompany on guitar some of my fiddle students as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. At 9 pm on Saturday, the Hot Tamale Louie ensemble will be playing at the Motley Cow. This is a ticketed event and it will sell out so look sharp.
I don’t know how I got lucky enough to be a part of this project but I am surely grateful.
“Over and over, we forget what being American means. The radical premise of our nation is that one people can be made from many, yet in each new generation we find reasons to limit who those “many” can be—to wall off access to America, literally or figuratively. That impulse usually finds its roots in claims about who we used to be, but nativist nostalgia is a fantasy. We have always been a pluralist nation, with a past far richer and stranger than we choose to recall.”
Schulz, Kathryn. “Citizen Khan” The New Yorker. June 6 & 13, 2016.
Left to right: Paul Kalina, Dan Padley, Tara McGovern, Justin LeDuc, Ryan Smith, Steve Locher, Daniel Gaglione, John Rapson and Dave Moore.
Captain Charles Boycott was a land agent of absentee landlord Lord Erne living in Lough Mask House, County Mayo, Ireland in 1880.
Harvests were poor that year and the farmers working Erne’s land were unable to afford the rent.
There are vast swaths of context that I’m not including here because so many valuable resources have already covered how the enclosure movement legalized the theft of land from Irish farmers who were then charged rent to work the land they had owned for centuries.
Boycott, showing all the mercy and grace of our modern-day GOP, responded by evicting 11 tenants from the land.
The Irish farmers had no recourse. All they had was solidarity which they employed despite significant personal hardship by refusing to work the land from which their friends and neighbors had been evicted.
Now the harvest was coming in and Captain Boycott had painted himself into a corner. He eventually had to hire Orangemen from Counties Cavan and Monaghan and pay one thousand police officers to escort them in to reap a harvest that was worth far less than it cost Boycott to gather.
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day in our deeply troubled world, I invite you to join me in invoking Ireland’s greatest gift to the world, the boycott.
The legacy of our Irish ancestors isn’t luck at all, it’s resilience.
St. Patrick’s Day as it is observed in most American cities is a consumerist sham. Sure, it started in the early 17th century as a religious feast day honoring the death day of St. Patrick in 462 AD, but it has devolved to a level of kitsch that deters many from any desire to observe the day at all.
The arguments against the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day are sound. Patrick, or Maewyn Succat according to some sources, wasn’t even Irish, for one. According to The Confession of Saint Patrick, he was a British teenager who was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years before escaping. He later became a cleric and then a bishop who returned to northern and western Ireland to spend the rest of his life evangelizing, ordaining clergy, and organizing a new religious order.
The most famous legend attached to St. Patrick also doesn’t hold up well in the light of modern interpretation. All scientific evidence suggests that the post-glacial island of Ireland never had snakes in the first place so this notion of St. Patrick banishing them can only be a symbolic representation of what he actually did destroy, the Druidry of the native Irish people.
Leaving history aside, there’s also the problems with how St. Patrick’s Day is most commonly celebrated now. Namely, with lots of green beer and t-shirts emblazoned with tasteless stereotypes. Google ‘Irish yoga’ if you’re confused.
That’s the bathwater. Now let me describe the baby.
The music of Ireland, of which I have been both scholar and devotee for more than three decades, is compellingly, heartrendingly beautiful. The same can be said of the dance traditions with the additional observation that Irish dancers are also dedicated and capable athletes. Irish food has never gotten the respect given to other European cuisines but if you’re ever actually had good Irish food, you know as I do how hearty and tasty it can be.
The place to be in eastern Iowa on this coming St. Patrick’s Day (Friday, March 17) is Uptown Bill’s Coffee House in Iowa City beginning at 6 pm. Bring a dish to pass in the potluck and an instrument to join in the open session that follows dinner. Maybe you’ll go on after the festivities and find yourself some green beer. Whatever floats your boat. There’s no wrong way to celebrate but there is more than one way.