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: music
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.
Folk Songs You Never Sang In Grade School by Keith Reins & Tara McGovern featuring Jon Cooper is now available on iTunes!
We’d love it if you would consider leaving us a rating or review over at iTunes!
Thanks as always for supporting independent musicians.
The album should go live on iTunes in the next 1-2 weeks. I’ll post again when we reach that milestone.
If you would be so kind as to leave a review of the album on our CDBaby page, we would appreciate it so much. Writing a review does require the creation of a CDBaby account but it is free, quick and easy and it’s really fun and helpful to review independent musicians. Just click on the page and scroll down to the bottom to click on “log in to write a review”.
Thank you for supporting independent musicians and for investing in keeping traditional music relevant and thriving.
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.
Photo by Patti Cooper
You Are Invited!
What: CD Release Concert for Folk Songs You Never Sang In Grade School
When: Saturday, July 8, 2017 at 7 pm
Where: Uptown Bill’s Coffee House in Iowa City
Keith Reins and I are thrilled to be releasing our album Folk Songs You Never Sang In Grade School that we’ve been working on for the last several years along with our friend uilleann piper Jon Cooper.
This project has been one of the great thrills of my professional life and it has so many layers that I find it hard to describe so heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Keith!:
My name is Keith Reins, English Professor Emeritus at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I am also a musician and essayist and have long wanted to combine my artistic interests by writing essays about music. This goal became a reality when I was delighted to receive an Endowed Faculty Chair Award from the Kirkwood Foundation. The endowment allowed me a “mini-sabbatical” in 2012 to pursue my ambition by researching and writing a series of essays about a collection of folk songs I have learned and loved over nearly 40 years of collecting and performing.
The result is Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School (FSYNSIGS), a multifaceted project that combines research, original essays, musical performance, an interactive website. and original recordings of songs in the collection.
On my website you’ll find all the essays and lyrics (as I learned them) to the songs in the Folk Songs You Never Sang In Grade School collection. The essays are linked to many of the sources I used in my research as well as varied performances (Thanks, YouTube!) of many songs. I didn’t write an essay about each song per se; I included all the songs in the FSYNSIGS collection in my essays, but the essays are more about themes, history and the artistry of composition than about individual songs. All this I wove together with personal narrative—my relationship with the songs and how I came to love, interpret, arrange and make them my own as a performer. My intent is to produce a compelling, entertaining, reader-friendly collection of essays about the songs I love and my creative life.
I invite you to pop over to Keith’s website to enjoy his wonderful essays, to join Keith, Jon and I tomorrow night at Uptown Bill’s, and to bring home one of our CDs for your very own. If you prefer a digital copy, check back here and I will let you know when the album hits CDBaby and iTunes in a few weeks.
Thanks for supporting local music!
Introducing Nina, my featured musician for July and April!
Shortly after Nina and her wonderful family moved to the area, I noticed her beautiful voice and serene presence in the Family Folk Machine and my heart leaped in recognition of a true up-and-coming artist.
Nina’s innate talent is matched ounce for ounce by sheer determination and she has already accomplished an incredible amount as a fiddler, not the least of which was her May 2017 appearance in City Circle‘s ANNIE GET YOUR GUN both as an actor and an onstage fiddler. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for our Nina.