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Rise Up Singing and Rise Again - The People's Songbooks

From the first notes of “O sisters, let’s go down…down to the river to pray, studying about that good old way…” a concert to launch Rise Again A Group Singing Songbook was one of the more uplifting and heartfelt evenings of recent experience.  The event was sponsored by Cambridge Forum, it was recorded and will be available at their website. 

The full crew of area folksingers sharing songs from the new songbook included Peter Blood and Annie Patterson, the originators of these great songbooks (Rise Up Singing), The Nields (Nerissa and Katryna), Ellen Epstein, Cindy Kallet and Michael Cicone, Fred Small, Charlie King, Grey Larson joining in playing flute and Rudy Burckhardt adding accordion music.

The evening unfolded magically with each performer adding their perspective, stories, and music, with performers joining each other, sometimes in a planned harmony, once just a wave and a nod brought Charlie King back on stage with his harmonica. 

The Nields gave us Creek’s Gonna Rise, about a local disaster when a church burned down with perfect ending lines: “A child stood up and said that love and music and our memories These cannot be destroyed, just rearranged.”

Fred Small told us how he learned history from folk music by subscribing to Broadside back in the day and how the songs told a history that was not the history he was learning in school.  I could relate to that experience having had it myself! 

Kallet, Epstein and Cicone sang, “There is a land, high on a hill….Oh – walk with me and we will see the mystery revealed When one day we wend our way up to the farthest field…in such haunting, beautiful harmony that the audience could travel right along with them in the song. 

Charlie King sang his tribute song to Pete Seeger “Spoon of sand can tip the balance, Drops of water turn a mill, Way out here over the rainbow, Someone’s standing, singing still…

And so we all were and are singing still, keeping faith, affirming our humanity and our love of life through this people’s music.

Rise Again is a new songbook put together by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson who put out the Rise Up Singing songbook back in 1988. 

There are a million copies of Rise Up Singing circulating this old world, from churches to synagogues, camps, schools, and the folk music world itself, to singing groups all over, the songbook has had a remarkable journey.  Ours is well-used, but going strong. 

As with Rise Up Singing, Rise Again categorizes the songs.  A few of the 39 categories:  British Invasion & Rock, Freedom, Outdoors, Pub Songs, Seas & Sailors, Surfin’ USA.  There is definitely something for everyone in this songbook. 

Rise Again has 1200 songs (no repetition with its predecessor), a preface from Pete Seeger, dictated in the time before his passage, and a foreword from Billy Bragg.  Pete leaves us with these words in the preface…”And perhaps if we find the right songs, even people who are so filled with hate they are ready to pull the trigger on somebody – we can reach them too.  Who knows?



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