The powerful community lessons we can learn from folk singer Carrie Newcomer
Folk singer Carrie Newcomer has some powerful insights about how we can bridge the divisions in our communities. She’ll share those insights through performance on Friday, March 23 and a workshop on March 24 at Icicle Creek Center for the Arts.
Newcomer, an Indiana native who embraces the Quaker belief that the spirit of the divine is within every person, brings a sense of connectedness, simplicity and hope to audiences all over the country.
Her songs offer us ways to move beyond the animosity and fear. This is an approach that we could choose to embrace to strengthen our communities.
Newcomer believes that we can choose to embrace a healthier way to respond than succumbing to fear by embracing a new story of empowerment, welcome and interdependence. I recorded my conversation with Newcomer for my Art of Community NCW project podcast. If you are inspired to learn more, you can access the recording at artofcommunityncw.com or via iTunes.
“ I think one of the nice things about being a traveling folksinger is that I see communities very close up,” Newcomer told me. “Every single place I go, there are people working very hard in that community to make the world just a little kinder place in their own way.”
If we are going to heal the divisions in our external world, she believes, we must first acknowledge how we are disconnected with ourselves. “There’s a Quaker idea (that) we all have an inner light – an inner teacher – and it can be trusted if we take the time to be with it,” Newcomer told me. “And so I think some of that disconnection we’re feeling in the macro (sense) has some roots in the disconnection we’re feeling in our busy, busy, busy lives.”
How we respond is critical. “Our most potent activism usually arises out of what we love… not just what we fear or what we’re against,” she told me.
This sense of the power of community and of faithfulness emerges in the themes of her music. In one song, she writes: “I can’t change the whole world, but I can change the world I know. What’s within three feet or so.” This is very hopeful and helpful counsel to all of us — that rather than giving up or getting angry and perpetuating hatred, we can begin with simple acts of courage, resolve and kindness in how we conduct our own lives.
In her workshop on Saturday, March 24 at Icicle Creek Center for the Arts, she’ll lead a conversation titled: “What We Need Is Here: The Art of Resistance and Welcome.” Hope is the experience of holding in creative tension all that is with all that could and should be, and everyday taking action to lessen the distance between the two, Newcomer told me.
Newcomer has a deep connection with the Upper Valley. For several years, she taught songwriting at the Grünewald Guild and developed a deep relationship with founders Richard and Liz Caemmerer, their son and daughter-in-law Michael and Adele and granddaughter Chloe Caemmerer.
Michael and Adele Caemmerer invited Newcomer to New Delhi, India, where they were teaching at a U.S. Embassy-sponsored school. Newcomer traveled the country and performed with eminent musicians.
Chloe Caemmerer started at the age six or eight, would sit on the porch and write songs with Newcomer. Her father remembers Newcomer always treated Chloe as a musical equal, despite her young age. The title track of Newcomer’s last studio album, The Beautiful Not Yet, was co-written with Chloe.
“She is just a luminous soul,” Newcomer said of Chloe. “She has been since I met her at I think six years old and she continues to be a luminous soul and an incredible artist.” Newcomer joked that she should add another “er” behind her name in honor of the Caemmerer clan.
Newcomer’s music and writing, deeply informed by her Quaker faith, gives us a more effective way to bridge the divide that separates us. “What are we welcoming into our lives… How do we connect better to our own soul, our own spirit, our own growing edge? And when we do that, how does that help us connect to the people around us, to the community around us and to the growing edge of the community,” she asks.
For tickets to the concert and/or workshop, check out icicle.org.