Fans of folk music may have a tough time finding that type of music on the radio, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to find.
Green Apple Folk Music Society is a group based out of New London that has been keeping folk music alive for around the last 28 years.
“What we do mostly is play the kind of music that you don’t hear on mainstream radio – a lot of the old country, bluegrass and mountain music and blues, which is a type of folk music,” says longtime member Dean Sauers of New London. “Whenever people ask me what type of music you play, I always say, ‘good [music].'”
The organization may be based out of New London, but its 200-250 members are scattered all over eastern Wisconsin. Members don’t have to sing or play an instrument. All that is required is a love for music.
“A lot of people just want to be part of the audience,” Sauers says.
Sauers says when he and his wife first joined Green Apple Folk Music Society he didn’t play any instruments.
“When I first got involved in Green Apple I got involved because I liked hearing the music,” Sauers says. “… But since then, I’ve discovered that I can play something if I put forth the effort and take the time to learn how to do that. It’s so much fun.
“You’re playing music on stage and you look out at the audience and the peoples’ eyes are happy and their heads are moving. I taught school for 30 years and I never got applause. The first time I stepped on stage I got applause. It is really gratifying.”
The organization hosts a monthly program. Sometimes this program is an open mic night, otherwise called a “hoot.” He says usually more than 100 people show up at a hoot. They are popular because “you get to see your peers on stage.”
“People who are interested in playing call me and we have six acts per night at a hoot. Each act gets 20 minutes,” Sauers says. “Those are held at Mosquito Hill Nature Center, our new home, or at Harmony Cafè in Appleton. We have three programs at Harmony during our season. The season runs from September through May. June and July we take off to catch our breath.”
Sauers says a lot of the songs members of the organization sing have messages.
“Some of them are messages of hope and some of despair,” Sauers says. “Its good music and we’re all amateurs.”
Between each set there is an intermission in which treats, coffee, drinks and cookies are available.
“We ask people to put money in the kitty for that,” Sauers says. “That money goes towards local charities. We donate probably over $1,000 a year to local charities. We are proud of that.”
Sauers says one of the largest events put on by the organization is the annual campout held the last weekend in August at Hartman Creek State Park.
“We spend four days there and there is a lot of music going on,” Sauers says. “Members can bring their instruments and jam – sit out in the woods and play. It’s really cool.”
In addition to hosting hoots, the organization also puts on two or three concerts per year. These concerts take place at Mosquito Hill Nature Center, and feature musical acts outside of the club.
Theme nights are also held, in which a theme is picked and any members who want to can play one or two songs. On Saturday, Dec. 18, the holiday program will take place, which Sauers says is very popular. In January there will be a political theme night that will also have a contest surrounding it. The top three original political songs that people have written the lyrics and music for will receive a prize.
Because the goal of the organization is to promote music, Sauers says they try to keep the prices reasonable and make it a family event. For information about membership pricing and admissions to events, visit www.greenapplefolk.org/.
“We try to make things available to all people especially in tough economic times like this,” Sauers says. “We try to keep our prices down so people can come and enjoy. To get away for an evening, hear good music and be with good friends.”