The Origins of Elders' Wisdom, Children's Song
Bringing Woody Guthrie Home
For three years in the late 1980s, Larry Long lived and worked with the people of Okemah, OK (Woody Guthrie's hometown) helping students to learn and write about their history. Taking the stories they had uncovered, Larry and the kids used melodies that Guthrie had borrowed from other people for his music and wrote new words to them.
This grew into the very first hometown tribute for Woody Guthrie, which was held at the Crystal Theatre, December 1, 1988, on the very stage Woody performed as a child. The performance was recorded and released on an album entitled It Takes a Lot of People. The occasion garnered nationwide coverage, including a piece on NBC’s Today Show. It marked the first time the town of Okemah came together to celebrate Woody.
The celebration continues today with WoodyFest, a free festival that grew out of Larry's work in Okemah. 2009 marks the 20 year anniversary of WoodyFest and It Takes A Lot of People. Long will be returning to Okemah to reflect on the impact Bringing Woody Home had on both the community and those who participated in the process. You can learn more at www.bringingwoodyhome.org.
After working with the children of Okemah through collective songwriting, Larry decided to take this same process to other communities throughout the world.
His next stop was Alabama, where he worked with children and elders in rural communities throughout the state. This culminated in the recording Well May the World Go.
Larry went on to work with communities including Alabama, the Dakotas, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Scotland.
In 2009 the first Elders Circle was convened, bringing together over forty elders from the recent celebrations that Community Celebration of Place held in partnership with WMEP (West Metro Education Program). The elders were able to learn more about the roots of EWCS as well as how Larry Long came to focus on working with community elders and children.
The elders were also asked to participate in a round table discussion of the future of the EWCS program. To commemorate the events, an illustrated timeline was created to show the history of the program.