|Norman "Mad Dwag" Siegle, Dave Drayer, Cheryl Niemo, and Andy Andrick in the back row, a fat old poet and Blues picker Andrew Cohen up front|
Two years ago tonight it poured rain here in McHenry County. It came down in buckets in what was a very soggy month. That put a crimp in plans for an evening mini folk festival we planned for the grounds of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry. Undeterred, we moved the program into the sanctuary and a little more than 50 folk slogged through the storm anyway.
The program, grandiosely named Just Plain Folk—Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things, was a benefit for our Compassion4Campers program for homeless PADS clients and despite the gloomy weather raised enough money to keep it afloat through the rest of the season until the seasonal church-based overnight shelters resumed operations in October. By the way that program is now in its third year of operation and is humming along nicely serving an often abused and neglected homeless population.
After a welcome by the Master of Ceremonies—That was me and greeting from our then brand new minister, the Rev. Sean Dennison, The Siblings featuring singer Cheryl Niemo, Dave Drayer on the stand-up bull fiddle and Andy Andrick on guitar set the table with a tasty set heavy on traditional Appalachian and early country music.
After that, as I observed, the stage would be dominated by old men with goatees for the rest of the night. The first of these was Chicago folk scene vet Norman “Mad Dwag” Siegel who did a set heavy on singer-songwriter material from the 60’s. But Andrew Cohen really showed why we was the headliner in a tight hour set that was a virtual clinic on great guitar picking and roots blues. Picking up an all-steel resonator guitar and a pinky slide, he told the story of Casey Jones as the audience had never heard it before.
Then with all of the musicians on stage and the audience on its feet we closed with a Centennial birth year salute to Woody Guthrie by singing This Land is Your Land with the subversive, seldom sung verses.
At the beginning of the evening, I snuck in one of my poems. Yeah, I know it wasn’t fair, but I was up there and had the microphone. The piece was written for the occasion and the theme of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
To tell you the truth, I had forgotten I wrote it until I stumbled on an old post about the event. It struck me, he said immodestly, as not half bad. And as a challenge.
My Prayer Tonight
A Poem for Just Plain Folk—Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
August 9, 2012
Let me be worthy of those
whose names have been forgotten.
Those who stood up,
and stood down.
Those whose hands bled,
and backs bent.
Those who nurtured,
and loved without question.
Those who questioned,
Those who offered hands up,
and hands on deck when it mattered.
Those who saw far,
and saw what need be done.
Those who sang,
and laughed despite it all.
Those of faith,
and far horizons.
Oh, Greater Mystery,
make me worthy of them all.