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Celebrating Life in Song


February 13, 2012 by wcobserver

WEST FORK – Sugar on the Floor is a four woman musical group that can cheer you up, make you cry and soothe your spirit with their harmony. Begun four years ago when Mim Heinrichs, Joanie Green, Julie Minkel and Marya McKee attended a workshop at Ozark Folk Center, the group sang all the way home and are still singing. Now they have their first CD out, Gimme A Little Sugar.

Many of the tunes on the album are traditional folk songs from America and Ireland. Not that the group doesn’t love to cover all sorts of music — anything from Blues, Doo-wop, Spirituals, even a Bob Dylan tune. And apparently they sing all the time, as someone told Joanie, “I hear you moving around in your office and there’s this little song following you.” Julie and Joanie are play therapists who met when Joanie moved here from Oklahoma. As part of her consulting, Julie spends time going from place to place and will “sing my heart out in the car, and when I arrive at the next place I am refreshed and all ready to look into a new situation.”

They knew each other outside of singing; Mim taught Spanish to Julie’s son, and Marya was Julie’s nine-year-old neighbor. After going to the workshop, they began meeting at Mim’s house to share in her wonderful cooking and to sing. This fits their philosophy: “Singing is defined by joy and community.” The group’s name was chosen on the spur of the moment and came from a Jean Ritchie song. “It’s the first song we sang in public, and they need- ed a way to introduce us with…we didn’t have a name,” says Joanie. That same casualness gave rise to the CD.

Mim recalls the time they were going to sing for the first time, at the Farmer’s Market in Fayetteville. They weren’t sure they would have enough songs for more than half an hour.

“But pretty soon we had so many songs that we would have to sing all week, so we thought we can put these together in an or- ganized way,” she said.

For Joanie it was a way to let people who might want to have them sing at a func- tion preview their style. Julie realized that Marya was 18 years old and might leave the area for college, so she thought, “Let’s preserve where we are at this moment in time.”

“The whole harmony thing is what really captured us,” said Mim.

They started out singing a Capella, but have added instruments now; they all play banjo. Mim got bitten by the ukulele bug and has a baritone and banjo ukulele. Julie can play the piano, dulcimer and clarinet and is recognized as the group’s kazoo master. Joanie brings guitar and drum to her music, but says, “We don’t want the instrument to lead the song, we try to find a good balance.”

They don’t see as much of Marya lately, but report that she has a beautiful voice,

plays the guitar and is a good dancer and all agreed that ”she is good at anything.”

Despite their own musical talents, the three unanimously encouraged others to sing, wherever they are.

“Getting a group together, committing to singing once a week is just wonderful,” said Julie.

They encourage folks of all ages to make music a part of their lives. Mim, a Spanish teacher, said she introduces Spanish literature with poetry, plays and ballads. The students enjoy them, “especially the grue- some and tragic ones,” she said.

“There’s something about singing that just makes you happy, and heals whatever, doesn’t feel good,” said Joanie.

Their talents aren’t limited to singing and playing instruments. Both Mim and Joanie are accomplished dancers and added foot

percussion to the mix. Mim has written an original song … and there is rumor of a music video. Joanie writes, but admits that she’s a little wordy for lyrics; Julie laughs and adds she tries to trim them down for her. They also present singing workshops.

Contact the “Sugars” through their web- site and see where they are playing next. They are available for any venue; they have performed for weddings, graduations, at folk schools in AR, TN and KY,as well as at a museum and even at a hospice. “We have so many songs that deal with life and death…cradle to grave…any kind of transition,” said Julie.

The CD is available by going to their website or in Fayetteville at Sound Ware- house, Good Things, the Fayetteville Visitors Center and Hastings. — By Elise Roberts



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