Written by children’s music blogger Carolyn Ross. View her monthly live music and arts calendar for families across the Washington, D.C. metro area at Family Music n’ Arts.
Portland’s acclaimed family folksinger and puppeteer, Red Yarn, celebrates the release of the Parent’s Choice Award-winning album Born in the Deep Woods with a tour of the east coast, with a stop at Wolf Trap!
Coming to Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-The-Woods, Tuesday, June 27, Andy Furgeson performs as Red Yarn, spinning tales and turning traditional rhythms into a more sophisticated, banjo-strumming, harmonica-hopping, contemporary nostalgia. Kids and families will enjoy the front-porch-swinging bluegrass and folk-rock rhythms, as they unwind for a while with Red Yarn, and meet his puppet family of “critters,” hailing from what he calls the Deep Woods.
Recently, Red Yarn answered a few questions from Family Music n’ Arts about the origins of his music, and why he finds it important to share with families.
What led you to The Deep Woods project, an almost anthropologic study of folk music about animals?
About eight years ago I decided to build on my interest in folk or revival music, collecting old records and teaching myself folksongs from old songbooks. I was particularly fascinated by the animal songs. They were ostensibly children’s songs, but were also dark and a little weird. I was just getting into puppetry and performing for children, so I started building puppets of the songs’ animal characters. Soon, the Deep Woods and my Red Yarn persona were born.
How have the places you have lived influence your music?
Growing up in Austin, Texas, I was exposed to a lot of old country, blues, and bluegrass music, as well as great rock’n’roll and a vibrant live music scene. I played in a punk band all through high school, so got used to high-energy performance at a young age. In College in California I played in a rowdy bluegrass band, the moved to Portland. I was drawn here because of the music – artists like Elliott Smith and the Decemberists and a thriving indie circuit. Plus, the natural world here has been a huge influence on the woodland critter world I’ve created.
You have two children. Tell me about them and the influence they have on your music. What have you found is an important message to share with your kids and other families?
I started performing for kids well before I had kids, but now that I have two of my own, I feel like I’m much better at making music that parents and kids can enjoy together. Lots of my songs start “in the nursery,” singing old folk tunes or original rhymes for my little ones. My newest album, Born in the Deep Woods, is all about birth and rebirth, full of stories and feelings from my own experience as a parent. I hope I give my kids, and all the kids who hear my music, a deeper sense of American music history and what it can tell us about American history. I also hope to inspire in them a freedom to explore, create, and express themselves.
Is puppetry still a big part of your shows? Do you make the puppets?
Yes! Puppetry is and will likely always be an important part of my show. I always travel with a suitcase full of “Critters” who do little routines in between songs. I’ve about half of my repertory cast of 20 critters, and commissioned talented friends to help with the other half.
What is a typical Saturday morning for your family?
Well, Saturdays are often a full workday for me, with two or three shows around town. But I always take at least one weekend day off to be with the family, so on that day we’re up early with the kids and out on a morning adventure. Lots of walks, exploring Portland’s awesome parks, neighborhoods, and woods. If we’re stuck inside, we’re often listening to records, singing songs, or building imaginary worlds with our kiddos.
Enter to win Red Yarn’s newest CD, Born in the Deep Woods by commenting on our Facebook page. Winner will be announced June 19!
See full summer schedule at Wolf Trap Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods.
After every show – free games and activities! Check out select shows for even more opportunities to learn and explore:
Junior Ranger Days: Enjoy outdoor activities with a National Park Ranger and earn your Junior Ranger Badge!
Workshops: Register for a free, exclusive post-performance experience with the artist.