This time of year, performers at dozens of holiday concerts sing songs about Santa, red-nosed reindeer and other Christmas themes, but folk musicians Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer of Kensington are two of the exceptions.
“People can hear [songs like these] in 7,000 other places [this time of year],” says Fink about Cathy & Marcy’s annual interactive winter family concert, which this year will be held on Saturday at the Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in North Bethesda.
Performing with Fink and Marxer will be this year’s special guest, folk singer/songwriter Robbie Schaefer, one of the founders of the folk-rock band Eddie from Ohio, who like Fink and Marxer, also creates and performs music for children.
“We’ll have some goofy songs, some silly songs and a couple of serious songs,” says Fink, who will draw on more than 30 years of performing with Marxer.
“We have a huge repertoire that we’ve collected and created,” Fink says. “We have some parents who grew up with our music who are now bringing their kids to our shows.”
The Winter Family concert is one of a series of family concerts co-sponsored by the Institute of Musical Traditions based in Takoma Park.
Fink says she and Marxer will be playing banjo, cello banjo (a banjo tuned like a cello), mandolin, guitar, ukulele and some percussion instruments.
Audience members are invited to bring a favorite musical instrument so they can participate in a musical jam at the end of the concert.
“It’s a fun, unique and very interactive show,” says Fink.
Fink and Marxer typically invite a special guest, which in the past has included musicians such as Pete Seegar, Tom Paxton, Bill Harley and Trout Fishing in America.
This year they invited Schaefer in part to recognize his recent work overseas. Schaefer is executive director of OneVoice, a nonprofit he formed in 2010 that uses music to link young American students with peers in impoverished and war-torn countries.
“He travels to underserved countries, connecting them to young students in the United States,” Fink says. “It’s a terrific cultural exchange.”
The organization grew out of a 2009 visit by Schaefer to the Brain Tree School in the village of Kyanja, Uganda, that resulted in a musical connection to the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., according to the OneVoice website.
A musician and videographer spend about a week at a school, recording workshops in which students learn and create songs and then share them with a sister school. Schaefer also broadcasts the results of the collaboration on Kids Place Live.
Last year, Schaefer spent a week at the Shepherds Junior Primary School near Arusha, Tanzania, according to OneVoice’s 2011 annual report. The trip resulted in a singing contest for children involving 29 schools, scouting groups and church choirs around the United States that collectively raised $27,440 to help build Shepherds Secondary School, which accepted its first 20 students in February.
Saturday’s concert is not about Santa, but it will feature a toy drive, Fink says.
“The main focus is to have a great family concert, but also see what other good things we can do,” she says.
Audience members are invited to bring new, unwrapped toys, which will be given to a local organization that is still to be decided.
“It allows people to participate in the best of the holiday spirit and that’s to give,” Fink says.