BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY -- It’s an idea folk icon Woody Guthrie might have thought of himself.
Stake out an area along a busy street corner, organize a 72-hour performance marathon of the song “This Land Is Your Land” and donate the money raised from pledges to humanitarian organizations.
That’s what Empire musician and subsistence agriculture expert Chris Skellenger hopes to do with his Music Marathon, Sept. 17-20 in downtown Traverse City.
Skellenger is calling on area musicians, singers, supporters and bystanders to participate in the event.
He believes it will create an unofficial world record for continuous live song performance.
“We checked with Guinness (World Records) and they said there isn’t a category for this,” he said.
The marathon will be staged during the day on business property at the corner of Front and Cass Streets near Cherry Republic and at night in front of Horizon Books on Front. Up to 100 participants are needed to keep the song going continuously from noon on Tuesday to noon on Friday.
“We’re encouraging people to sign up for a four-hour block of time and we’re going for an average of four people to cover a four-hour block,” said Skellenger, who plans to post the lyrics of all seven verses of the song so anyone can participate. “You can sing, play, recite it as a poem or give it as a political speech. You can whistle it. You can bring your own kazoo, and we’ll have toy pianos there.”
The event will raise money for Skellenger’s Buckets of Rain, which helps create community vegetable gardens in inner-city areas like Detroit and Guatemala City, Guatemala, and for Great Lakes Friends of Safe Passage, which helps educate children of families that live and work in the Guatemala City garbage dump community.
The locally led organizations have collaborated since 2006 to provide education and food security to families living in extreme poverty.
“We think it’s a really good cause and it’s a unique fundraiser,” said Horizon Books sales manager Amy Reynolds, who adopted her 13-year-old son from Guatemala. “There’s the joke that someone may pay just to get them to stop playing that one song over and over.”
Skellenger said he got permission to use the song during the event from Guthrie’s estate.
“It embodies the struggle of downtrodden people and the greatness of the country and how sometimes they can exist at the same time,” he said, adding that other musicians involved include singer-songwriter Adair Correll and members of Cabin Fever, Song of the Lakes, New Third Coast and Three Hour Tour. “The unknown verses of ‘This Land’ deal more with the sociopolitical aspects of what we do. They’re the verses you don’t sing in school.”
Those who want to participate can sign up ahead of time by calling Skellenger at 883-7213 and can download a pledge form on the website bucketsofrain.org. Spur-of-the-moment participation also is encouraged, especially during hard-to-fill times.
“What we’re looking for are people on their way to work, on their way home from work, working the third shift, the second shift,” said Skellenger, who plans to be on-site during the entire 72 hours.
He said he plans to make the music marathon an annual event that could expand to more days.
“This is just one huge experiment this year,” he said. “When I did the math for going for five days, we should be able to raise $45,000. And that doesn’t count what goes into the guitar cases.”