Songbag-a-Day 6

Frankie and Johnny

Songbag-a-Day 5

Good-By Liza Jane

Songbag-a-Day 4


Songbag-a-Day 3

John Henry

Songbag-a-Day 2

In 2010 I participated in the Artclash Collective’s Fun-a-Day challenge with my Lomax-a-Day project. Each day in January I adapted a folksong from Alan Lomax’ 1960 Folk Songs of North America, recorded it on Garage Band, wrote an analysis and posted it on my blog. This project changed my life. It inspired my to start me the Red Yarn blog, which grew into my folk music and puppetry side-project, which grew into my new, fulfilling career. This year I’m doing a similar project, but with Carl Sandburg’s 1927 The American Songbag.

Sandburg was a true American Bard, the kind that Walt Whitman called for in his introduction to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. In the early 20th century Sandburg toured the midwest lecturing on Whitman, reading Whitman’s poems, and eventually sharing his own poetry. In 1910 he bought a guitar and began mixing American folksongs into his performances. In 1921 he wrote to a friend, “I am reading poems and singing Casey Jones, Steamboat Bill, and medleys… This whole thing is only in its beginnings, America knowing its songs.” Sandburg’s song collection soon took shape into The American Songbag, a sprawling anthology of “pioneer, railroad, work-gang, hobo, Irish, Negro, Mexican, gutter, Gossamer songs, chants and ditties.”

Since college I’ve been obsessed with Whitman’s idea of the American Bard. My senior thesis project explored Bob Dylan’s fulfillment of the bardic project. My former band Bark Hide and Horn’s 2008 album National Road attempted to give voice to the voiceless people and animals of old magazine articles. Red Yarn is my unabashed attempt to create a bard persona accessible to the younger generation. I am deeply committed to “America knowing its songs.”

I am also excited to embark on another grand and public mistranslation of the American folk vernacular. While I’m loosely familiar with much of the material I’ll explore over the next month, I am deliberately avoiding other recordings of these songs. Unlike Lomax’s collection, the Songbag doesn’t have guitar chords, only piano arrangements. So I teach myself just the top line–the melody–and develop a chord progression by ear. With this method I hope to synthesize my amateur knowledge of traditional folk music with my own musical sensibilities and whims.

Yesterday I recorded “The Boll Weevil Song,” a song Sandburg learned from Alan Lomax’s father John. Today “I Ride an Old Paint.” I hope to dig into song analysis as I go, but with my busy schedule I’m making no promises beyond the recordings. Enjoy!

I Ride an Old Paint

Songbag-a-Day 1

The Boll Weevil Song

Late December/January Newsletter

I hope you and your families are having a wonderful holiday season. In light of the recent tragedies in the news, let’s treasure the precious time we have with the ones we love. I’ll be out of town visiting my own family for the next two weeks, so not performing my regular shows. Please take a look at the show schedule below to see when I’ll be resuming my regular gigs in January. (I’m leading a camp when I return, so some shows don’t resume till the 2nd or 3rd week of January.) Also, I’m leading several new afterschool classes in the new year. Find the details below and if you’re interested, register your school-aged child!

Show Schedule:
– Cafe au Play, Tuesdays, 10:30-11am
– Woodlawn Swap’n’Play, 2nd & 4th Wednesdays, 10-10:45am
– The Treehouse Boutique, Thursdays, 10:15-11am
– Warehouse Cafe, Fridays, 10-10:45am
– Milagros Boutique, Fridays, 3:30-4:15pm

Special Shows:
– Monday, Dec 31 at World Forestry Center
  10-10:45am (Mommy & Me Mondays)
– Monday, Jan 7 at World Forestry Center
  10-10:45am (Mommy & Me Mondays)
– Monday, Jan 14 at Lilikoi Coffee 
  Time and details TBA
– Thursday, Jan 31 at Canby Public Library
  “The Deep Woods,” 6:30-7:15pm
Afterschool Classes:
– Mondays at Friendly House. Email me or see the attached form for registration details.

Musical Puppets (K-3rd)

2:30-3:30pm, Mondays, Jan 14-Mar 18  

(No class on Jan 21 or Feb 18)

8 classes for $70/$60 for FH students/$50 free/reduced lunch

Students will adapt an American folktale into a musical puppet show, weaving in folksongs and original music. After choosing a story, participants will build elaborate sock puppets of the characters. They’ll adapt dialogue, develop voices and practice puppet manipulation. Andy will teach the group folksongs related to the tale. Finally the group will perform their new show for families and friends at a special showcase!

Friendly House Kids Band (2nd-6th)
4:00-5:00pm, Mondays, Jan 14-Mar 18 
(No class on Jan 21 or Feb 18) 
8 classes for $70/$60 for FH students/$50 free/reduced lunch

In this exciting acoustic music ensemble, students will build skills on instruments, learn to play familiar songs, compose original songs, record and perform. Kids will explore guitar, violin, xylophone, percussion, and piano, then choose an instrument on which to focus. Students may also bring other acoustic instruments from home. Finally the group will perform their new musical creations at a special showcase!
– Thursdays at KCLC/MLC school. Find their club guide and registration form here.

Musical Puppets (K-2nd)
3:15-4:15pm, Thursdays, Jan 10-March 14
8 classes for $70
(Same description as above)

Pop Song Chorus (2nd-6th)
4:15-5:15, Thursdays, Jan 10-March 14 
8 classes for $70 
Are you a fan of Glee, American Idol, or the awesome new music you hear on the radio? If so, join Red Yarn Productions for this one-of-a-kind club! Students will choose their favorite radio pop songs and develop choral arrangements. We’ll work out simple instrumentation with guitars, keyboards, percussion and a drum machine. Finally, the group will perform their songs for families and friends at the showcase! 

– Fridays at BridlemileFind registration details here.

Musical Puppets (K-2nd)

2:15-3:30pm, Fridays, Jan 25-Mar 22

(No class on Feb 1 or Feb 15)
7 classes for $30
(Same description as above)

As always, keep Red Yarn & the Critters in mind for birthday parties, school residencies and performances. And show your support by“liking” Red Yarn on Facebook!

Have a safe and happy holiday!
Andy Furgeson

Red Yarn Productions

Late November/December News

Happy Holidays from Red Yarn Productions! I hope you and your families are feeling happy and grounded as we enter this busy season. With Thanksgiving and winter break coming up, Red Yarn’s regular shows will be more sporadic. Please take a look at the SHOW SCHEDULE below so you don’t go to see Red and the critters on a day they’re not performing. Please join me at the first ever Family Jam event at Friendly House on the evening of Friday, Nov. 30. I’m offering several new AFTERSCHOOL CLASSES starting in January. Look at the info below and consider if one of my classes would be a good fit for a child in your life. 
Please forgive me for a quick hop onto my soapbox. With the holidays coming up, I encourage everyone to consume as creatively, locally, and minimally as possible. Milagros Boutique and the TreeHouse Children’s Boutique are wonderful options for kids’ clothes and toys, or join Woodlawn Swap’n’Play and trade your kids’ old stuff. Warehouse Cafe and Market and Tastebud are perfect sources for local food for your holiday meals. For reused or homemade decorations, SCRAP is your place. Give a charitable gift to a local nonprofit in someone’s honor. Friendly House, Inc.,Cafe au PlayYoung AudiencesTears of Joy, Open Meadow and Ethos are all awesome; or support Kids Community Learning Center by buying a Chico Bag and entering the code KCLC at check-out.
And if you want to give your children a little piece of Red Yarn for the holidays, I’ll be selling Red Yarn Make-Your-Own-Sock-Puppet Kits at shows starting in December. I can also build a limited number of custom puppets on commission. Email for more details.
Red Yarn’s Weekly Show Schedule
  • Tuesday mornings at Cafe au Play, 10:30-11am. SPECIAL THANKSGIVING SHOW TOMORROW. No shows on Dec. 18, 25, or Jan. 1.
  • 2nd & 4th Wednesday mornings at Woodlawn Swap’n’Play, 10-10:45am. No show on Dec. 26.
  • Select Thursday mornings at TreeHouse Boutique, 10:15-11am. Shows on Nov 29 & Dec 6, then picking up more regularly in January.
  • Friday mornings at Warehouse Cafe, 10-10:45am. No shows this week (Nov. 23), Dec. 21, 28, or Jan. 4
  • Friday afternoons at Milagros Boutique, 3:30-4:15pm. SPECIAL THANKSGIVING SHOW THIS WEEK. No shows on Dec. 21 or 28.
    Family Jam

    Red Yarn Productions and Friendly House are excited to present the first of its kind FAMILY JAM on Friday, November 30, from 6:30-8:00pm at 1737 NW 26th Ave. Children and parents/caregivers are invited to bring acoustic instruments–guitars, ukeleles, percussion, etc.–to participate in a joyous, raucous, all-ages jam session. Musician and teaching artist Andy Furgeson will lead the group in simple jams, engaging beginners and more experienced players alike. We’ll warm up on familiar songs and end the session by writing an original song as a group. So dust off that guitar or tambourine and get ready to rock, family style! Friendly House will have some instruments on hand for all to use. Light dinner will be provided at this free, inclusive event. Thank you Neighbors Meeting Neighbors for funding!

    Afterschool Classes
    We’re still finalizing details for most of these classes, so please understand if they change slightly. All classes will be fee-based, with rates determined by the specific programs. Registration is not yet open for any of these classes, but let me know if you’re interested and I’ll keep you posted. 
    • Monday afternoons at Friendly House, Jan 14-Mar 18
      • Musical Puppets for K-2nd graders, 2:30-3:30pm
      • Friendly House Kids Band acoustic music ensemble for 2nd-6th graders, 4-5pm
    • Thursday afternoons at KCLC, Jan 10-Mar 14
      • Musical Puppets for K-2nd graders, 3:15-4:15pm
      • Possibly a Pop Song Chorus for 3rd-6th
    • Friday afternoons at Bridlemile ASE, Jan 25-Mar 22
      • Musical Puppets for K-2nd graders, 2:15-3:30
    As always, you can show your support by liking Red Yarn on Facebook, recommending me to your child’s school for a performance or residency, or coming out to any of our shows.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
    Andy Furgeson
    Red Yarn Productions

    Halloween show & November news

    I’m posting my November newsletter a few days early to make sure you know about Red Yarn Puppet Band’s Halloween Spectacular at Mississippi Pizza, 5-6pm on Wednesday. See the flyer below; here’s the Facebook event to share with your friends. We’ll be pulling out all the stops; expect spooky stories, haunted American folksongs, the Big Bad Wolf, a giant skeleton, and more. Please know that this show could be scary for younger kids–I’m recommending it for fearless 4-year-olds and up. Younger ones are welcome with the understanding that some content might be frightening. Hope to see you and your family there!

    Weekly Shows
    -Tuesday Mornings at Cafe au Play
    10:30-11am, $3/person suggested donation
    2nd & 4th Wednesdays at Woodlawn Swap’n’Play/Village Ballroom
    10-10:45am, $5/family suggested donation
    -Friday Mornings at Warehouse Cafe
    10-10:45am, $5/family suggested donation **no show Friday, Nov. 23
    Friday Afternoons at Milagros Boutique
    3:30-4:15pm, $3/person suggested donation 
    Other Shows
    From November to April, I’ll be performing on the first Monday of each month at the World Forestry Center’s Mommy and Me Mondays. Come out at 10am on November 5th for my first show there. I’m debuting my Social Skills Stories for Preschoolers, mixed with good ol’ animal folk songs and stories. 
    Elementary School Residencies
    If you have a school-age child, please consider me for an arts residency at his/her elementary school. I offer a program called “Folk Song Puppet Show” through Young Audiences. I’ll visit your child’s class 3-5 times and help them adapt a classic American folksong into a musical puppet show. Each child builds his/her own elaborate sock puppet. For more information, visit my artist page on the Young Audiences website, or read a description on my website

    And of course, keep me in mind for your child’s next Birthday Party! You can always show your support by “Liking” Red Yarn on Facebook and spreading the word to friends. I hope to see you soon!
    Andy “Red Yarn” Furgeson

    Red Yarn celebrates National Food Day 2012!

    Tomorrow, October 24, is National Food Day 2012! To celebrate, all of my shows this week will be food-themed with messages about healthy eating. Thanks to the Portland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for contacting me and inspiring me to get involved!