Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the miles between them, "Simply Folk" listeners shared their voices and their spirit with each other for the show’s annual singalong to be broadcast on Jan. 3. Invited to record their voices singing along to traditional folk songs, 60 listeners and staff members of Wisconsin Public Radio and PBS Wisconsin responded enthusiastically, creating a wonderful album of music that you can download here.
"Simply Folk’s" annual singalong show has, for many years, been its most popular broadcast, sharing three hours of songs to sing along to, most well-known but a few less so. During the broadcast the last few years, Wisconsin Public Media staff members have come into the studio to help lead the singing live for a few of those songs. However, this year, with the pandemic, crowding a group of people into a small, indoor space to sing didn’t seem like a good idea!
Thus was born the Virtual House Band, bringing staff members — and listeners — together virtually for this year’s broadcast. Six well-known songs were chosen and basic recordings of each were made, with the WPM staff joining in. Those tracks were then posted online and listeners were invited to record themselves singing along. After receiving the recordings, WPR engineer Tom Blain mixed the various voices and instruments together to create six tracks that communicate the enthusiasm and joy shared by the singers.
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Listener Kerri wrote, "For many years, I have been part of a casual group in Baraboo that calls itself 'Sing.' At each of our infrequent gatherings, we join together for fellowship and a potluck meal, followed by singing folk songs together. The iconic 'This Land is Your Land' is always among our repertoire, usually as the first song sung. This year, due to COVID, our 'Sing' gatherings have had to be canceled. So, my choosing to sing along with 'This Land is Your Land' during 'Simply Folk's' singalong evening is my nod to my fellow 'Sing' group friends, with wishes for a safe and healthy new year so that we can find ourselves gathering again in song."
Listeners of all ages joined in, including Lis, who said her recoding included, "me and my kiddo, Sybil, age 7." And Emily wrote, "My mom listens to ('Simply Folk') and she thought it’d be a fun thing for us to do together, so thanks for the fun times with my family!"
The "Simply Folk" Virtual House Band was a collaborative effort at WPR, with members of the marketing, digital, and music departments all joining together to make it happen. That collaboration symbolized the Virtual House Band itself — all of us joining our voices together to make something beautiful happen, which is a great way to start 2021.