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Joe Greenwood

Joe Greenwood lives, writes, and plays guitar in Grand Forks. He began working at the Grand Forks Herald in 2006, and was Online Content Coordinator from 2007 to 2012. In this capacity he also worked as Multi-Media Consultant for several Herald-owned websites such as and Currently, Joe is webmaster for Vintage Guitar magazine, and runs his own web design business, Greenwood Online Services and Consulting LLC. As a songwriter, Joe is a member of the American Society of Composers, Artists, and Publishers (ASCAP), and has written over one hundred songs. He has played in several local rock and roll bands including The Midnights and Ortolan Saints, and is currently performing with the jazz guitar group Tone Drones. Joe is also collaborating with local musicians to record old time folk songs on guitar, mandolin and banjo. He has published three books of poetry through his publishing company, Blackwood Press, An Ode To A Statue, One Mile To Palermo, and Pipe Etchings. Find out more at

JOE GREENWOOD: 20,000 Leagues Into The Sky — Every Time A Bell Rings

A page of script from "It's A Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play," with Foley markup.
A page of script from “It’s A Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play,” with Foley markup.

Foley operator Dave Dauphinais and his assistant Serena Darland have their hands full this weekend at Fire Hall Theatre.

The two are creating live sound effects for The Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre’s presentation of “It’s A Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play.”

This adaptation by Joe Landry features condensed scenes from the Frank Capra classic starring Jimmy Stewart and casts its audience as listeners of a 1940s radio studio production, where 17 actors portray 41 characters.

Actors Jenny Morris and Sam O'Donnell portray the voices of Mary and George in "It's A Wonderful Life".
Actors Jenny Morris and Sam O’Donnell portray the voices of Mary and George in “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

The show within the show is brought to life by Dauphinais and Darland, the Foleys. And if one closes their eyes and imagines the evocation of the period-dressed actors on stage, you are perhaps drawn back to your grandparents’ old living room, curled close on the carpeted floor, listening to the small, magical transistor broadcasting from old WBFR in New York.

“Realistically, a 1940s radio production like this would be performed by maybe three or four voice actors,” said Kathy Coudle-King, executive director of the theater. “Marcus has a big heart and casted many actors.”

Voice actors portray "It's A Wonderful Life" on stage at the Fire Hall Theatre.
Voice actors portray “It’s A Wonderful Life” on stage at the Fire Hall Theatre.

“Who doesn’t get the warm fuzzies from this story?” explained director Marcus Woodard. “It’s unique as a live radio play, and it gives the actors a different opportunity to be expressive through their voices and intonation. And when do you ever get to see a live Foley operator?!”

Nine year old actress Emma-Lynn Dawes portrays the voices of Young Violet and Zuzu in "It's A Wonderful Life".
Nine year old actress Emma-Lynn Dawes portrays the voices of Young Violet and Zuzu in “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

“This time of year is often difficult for people in so many ways, and I think the creators of this story really had their finger on it, a reminder of the joyful stuff that life is all about,” Coudle-King said.

Foley, the reproduction of everyday sound effects added to radio and film to enhance the audio experience, is named after Jack Foley, who started working with Universal Studios during the silent movie era and developed live sound effects for live broadcasts of radio drama in the early 1920s. These reproduced sounds can be anything from the blowing of the wind and roaring motorcars to squeaky doors and breaking glass.

Foley operator Serena Darland waits for her cue to create a ringing doorbell sound.
Foley operator Serena Darland waits for her cue to create a ringing doorbell sound.

“We wanted to make the sound organic as possible ― everything analog,” Dauphinais explained. “We made the decision to do everything the old-fashioned way, nothing prerecorded or digital, and we were figuring stuff out as we went along with the cast through the script.”

For example, the sound of chirping crickets is quite realistically produced by a combination of the female actors’ voices making a high-pitched roll while the Foleys provide a chorus effect from scratching a saw blade across a metal rod. The closing of the lid of an old tool box sounds just like a slamming door of a Beford Falls jalopy. A pinched box of cornstarch creates the sound of footsteps running on snow. A cash register “cha-ching!” is made not by a cash register but by a sliding typewriter carriage punctuated with a desktop service bell. They even found an old wind machine, a wrap of canvas hand-cranked around a large, ribbed barrel, in the back of the theater.

Foley operator Dave Dauphinais demonstrates a wind machine that was found in the Fire Hall Theatre and used in the play.
Foley operator Dave Dauphinais demonstrates a wind machine that was found in the Fire Hall Theatre and used in the play.

“We found it back there, and Dave was the only one who knew what it was,” Woodard said.

This is the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre’s first performance of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” although it has done several radio show-style plays in the past.

The cast is having fun, and with signs of healthy turnout and positive audience reaction, talks about ideas for future Christmas season performances, perhaps of “Miracle on 34th Street” or “A Christmas Story,” segue into the night.

“It’s A Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play” runs Dec. 17-20 at Fire Hall Theatre in Grand Forks.

JOE GREENWOOD: 20,000 Leagues Into The Sky — Remembering Steve Swanberg

Sadly, we have lost a longtime friend who resided in downtown Grand Forks – above my office. Many of you know him as Swanie — Steve Swanberg grew up in East Grand Forks, Minn.,  and was the last of seven children. Steve touched the lives of many people. He passed away on June 27.

There will be a memorial gathering to honor the life of Steve Swanberg, today at 5p.m. (July 9) at Freedom Church, downtown Grand Forks, N.D., on Demers Avenue. Our hope is that you take a few minutes out of your busy life to share, console and celebrate Swanie.

Steve Swanberg
Steve Swanberg

The first time I really noticed Steve Swanberg, he was shoveling snow from the sidewalks in front of the shops downtown, and I knew I had seen him before. He had a magic about him, well- dressed, elevated. He reminded me of the writer and beat poet, William Burroughs. I guessed he may have been a business owner, maybe the jewelery store. He was an image that personified what I sense is the attraction of downtown Grand Forks: Metropolitan, aesthetic with a touch of class.

It would be years later, when I rented an office downtown in the building where Steve lived, that I would learn that he wasn’t a business owner, that it wasn’t necessarily his responsibility to clear the sidewalks downtown, but that he took it upon himself. That it was his nature —  to care for the buildings and grounds of downtown, and the businesses and people. And maybe, in exchange, and by the generosity of those business owners, he collected a few bucks here and there for his efforts. That, I think, was how he made his living. He was the caretaker of downtown Grand Forks.

When there was a water break in our building, above my office, Steve was there with another resident cleaning up as a first responder. He didn’t hesitate to get wet and use his hands to start the dirty cleanup. As I huffed and puffed over what a disaster this was and how some of my stuff was getting wet, Steve kept busy with the cleanup and made efforts to notify the other tenants who may have been affected. What a selfless, giving man. I learned to really admire and appreciate Steve that day.

Steve was a conversationalist and an excellent networker. He got along so well with so many people and got to know so many people that he was a natural at making connections, bringing people together in their shared efforts. He shared news with and about the residents in our building.

It’s thanks to Steve that I have at least one business partner today, Brandon Jacobson, owner of The Uniform Unit. Steve met me in the hallway one day and mentioned the guy downstairs said he needed help with a website. I went down and introduced myself, and we’ve gone from there. Thanks, Steve.

Steve knew so much trivia about our town, about the buildings downtown and the people who populated the history of our city. He explained to me that the Widlund building, where my office and his apartment are, was once a wide-open, two-floor retail clothing department store. I think he said it was a Macy’s. I was wanting to ask him about that again, to clarify some of the things he’d said about the place, after I’d had some time to think about them. That’s the feeling I get, now that he’s gone: that I miss his visits and his conversation. There was a lot more I would have liked to have known.

I’ll think of Steve often as I walk the halls of that building; his fine dress, his giving conversation, his encyclopaedic knowledge. And that beatnik magic that he certainly carried within him. His is a character that I’m sure I will never forget.

A website has been created as a memorial to Steve, at As time goes by, more information about Steve will be posted. If you have a favorite story, picture, or other information that honors his memory, please email it to the webmaster of that website for possible inclusion.

JOE GREENWOOD: 20,000 Leagues Into The Sky — Unheralded Duck

This morning while driving to work, I came across a mother duck and her brood of at least two dozen baby ducklings bravely attempting to cross Columbia Road toward the University of North Dakota School of Medicine. I turned my car around a long block to come upon them again in hopes of snapping a picture. Perhaps I’d stop my car with flashers in the middle of the busy road and frame an iconic still of their precipitous attempts through one of the city’s busiest roadways.

By the time I got back around, they were nearly across the street, several cars slowing to let the small ones finish their journey, the mother turning back to help the last of them up off the street and up over the curb. How proud I was of them for jumping onto that curb!

I ditched my car and ran across the road with my camera as the mother eyed me and guided her young ones beneath a row of parked cars.

“I don’t mean to harm you! Please, begging just a photo!” I expressed with my face, but neither the mother nor the young ones were having anything of it and wanted nothing to do with me. I felt remorse for how I must have frightened those young ducklings but was very much impressed with their ability to scuttle along stealthily and conceal themselves. I wondered about their vision and imagined how they might be mentally processing my presence.

I walked a bit away and tried to find them beneath the vehicles, but they remained very well-hidden. I left them alone, carelessly crossing back through traffic to my car and reviewed the poor distant photos I had captured. Nothing iconic in the hasty lot, but at least you could see them, the ducklings, however grainily, as a reminder of the darling creatures and their thrilling plight.

Unheralded Duck
Baby ducklings climb the curb along north Columbia Road on Friday morning in Grand Forks.

JOE GREENWOOD: 20,000 Leagues Into The Sky — Finnish Pioneers Monument Near Rolla, N.D.

Finnish Pioneers Monument near Rolla, ND
Finnish Pioneers Monument near Rolla, ND

I ran across this monument the other day while driving near Rolla, North Dakota.



Finnish Pioneers Monument near Rolla, ND
Finnish Pioneers Monument near Rolla, ND

According to the Internet [], the monument was placed by the Towner County Historical Society, “organized by a Dr. K. Koski, who came from Iron River, Michigan, to practice in Rolla. Dr. Koski interested the [local] Finns into organizing the Society. Their objective was to collect historical facts and information dating back to 1896, when the first Finnish settlers arrived. […] The Society decided to build a memorial monument for Finnish pioneers. […] On Sunday, July 8, 1956, the unveiling and dedication took place.

I think of our forefathers, our parents’ homes, our grandparents’; and before them, the children of the turn of the century, their parents perhaps being pioneer prairie settlers; what their homes were made of and what they must have been like to be within, while the winds howled and ripped perhaps nearly a hundred miles an hour across the open plain. I imagine the courage it took to bear assurance to a young family of women and children that it would be all right, sleep tight, it would all hold up through the night, and the wind would pass, the dawn would rise, and we’d all be here, still, shining and rested, and we hadn’t blown away.

By God, a sod house.

I live in a brand-new house on the south end of Grand Forks, N.D. As this is a new development in a part of town that until recently was but amid the middle of large swaths of open fields, there are only a few small young trees and nothing to block the wind. And the wind really whips hard, uninhibited whatsoever, from the southwest.

It leads one to consider the construction of his house, as the windows wobble and the siding rattles, the deck chairs shuffle and the howling roars.

We hope the materials, and the people who placed them in construction, are sure, tested, up to the task of holding together through extreme conditions. Surely, one thinks, in this modern world, our home-building technology and knowledge has advanced so far that we needn’t even consider the worry.

When did we start living in modernly constructed, wood-framed houses on the Midwest American prairie?

In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the Homestead Act. This law permitted any 21-year-old citizen or immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen to lay claim to 160 acres of land known as the Great American Prairie. After paying a filing fee, farming the land, and living on it for five years, the ownership of the land passed to the homesteader.

People came from all over the world to take advantage of this opportunity. By 1900 over 600,000 claims had been filed.” []

At least a few of them, Finnish, it seems.

[…] Without trees or stone to build with, homesteaders had to rely on the only available building material — prairie sod, jokingly called “Nebraska marble.” Sod is the top layer of earth that includes grass, its roots, and the dirt clinging to the roots.” [ibid.]

Ah yes, good ol’ Nebraska marble. What a prospect!

Prairie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs and Family Letters, 1862-1912, “illustrates through photographs and letters the lives of the Oblinger family, who settled the Great Plains during the latter part of the 19th century. These personal accounts provide information on the joy and sorrows of life on the plains and include love letters and correspondence on financial issues, crop development, religious meetings and the work involved in establishing a home on the Nebraska prairie. Of special interest will be correspondence on the Easter Blizzard of 1873.” []

We’re fortunate to have the homes we’ve got, these days. It took a lot of work for our family to get to living in the luxury of modern construction. Much more than we’re often aware of, in our lifetimes, it seems.

Before this, we lived on Grand Forks’s Cottonwood Street in a 1930s bungalow, of arched doorways and stucco siding. I sometimes would call it a “mud hut”, but in honesty, the construction was already pretty good by then. A far cry from a sod house, for sure.

Before me, my dad’s grandpa’s dad might have lived in just that.

Some other Finnish monuments
1892 Dedicated to the memory of the early Finnish pioneers who helped to build this community. 1957
Erected 1957 by the Minnesota Finnish-American Historical Society, Hibbing, Minn.
In memory of the Finnish pioneers who arrived here in the western part of Carlton County in 1872 and thereafter, and made their homes with courage and perseverance. Erected 1952 by Minnesota Finnish American Historical Society Chapter No. 3. / Muistoksi Suomalaisille esiraivaajille jotka saapuivat tanne lansi osaan Carlton Kauntia vuonna 1872 ja sen jalkeen rohkeasti, sitkeydella kotinsa. Perustivat pystyttanyt 1952 Minnesotan Suomalainen Amerikan Historiallinen Seura Osasto No. 3.
Erected 1952 by the Minnesota Finnish American Historical Society, near Kettle River, Minn., in Carlton County.

JOE GREENWOOD: 20,000 Leagues Into The Sky — A Drive Through Pembina Gorge

A wintry February drive through the Pembina Gorge in northeastern North Dakota entertains this midday respite, listening to French-Canadian radio via Manitoba airwaves. Le touriste, indeed!

Damien Robitaille – Le Touriste du Temps

Le touriste du temps
S’promène sur le calendrier
Hier, vers le futur
Demain, vers le passé
S’il passe par mon époque, qu’il vienne frapper à ma porte
Qu’on jase de ma jeunesse
Et de ma destinée.

Je veux faire mes éloges
Au hors-la-loi de l’horloge.
Il bondit d’ère en ère
Sans peur du décalage horaire
Visionnaire nostalgique
Sans sens chronologique.
Ta présence manque au présent
Repose-toi un instant…

Le touriste du temps
Se promène sur le calendrier
Hier, vers le futur
Demain, vers le passé
S’il passe par mon époque, j’espère qu’il frappe à ma porte
Qu’on jase de ma jeunesse
Et de ma destinée.

J’expédie un message
À lui qui évite son âge
Tu dois avoir un choc
Quand tu rock around les époques?
Oublie pas ta famille
Tes amis, aujourd’hui…
Ta présence manque au présent…
Le bon vieux temps courant!

Arrête de fuir
Ces années ont tant à t’offrir
Reviens nous voir
Dans notre coin de l’histoire.


Le touriste du temps
Le touriste du temps
Le touriste, le touriste, le touriste du temps…


Ta présence manque au présent…

Translated to English by Google:

The tourist of time
A walk on the calendar
Yesterday to the Future
Tomorrow, to the Past
If it goes through my day, he comes knocking on my door
That chatters of my youth
And my destiny.

I want to do my praise
The off-the-law of the clock.
He jumped era Era
Without fear of jet lag
Nostalgic vision
Without chronological sense.
Your presence in this lack
Rest a moment …

The tourist time
Walks on the calendar
Yesterday to the Future
Tomorrow, to the Past
If it goes through my day, I hope it strikes at my door
That chatters of my youth
And my destiny.

I am sending a message
To him avoiding his age
You must be a shock
When you rock around the times?
Forget not your family
Friends, today …
Your presence in this lack …
The good old current time!

Stop leak
These years have so much to offer you
Come see us
In our part of the story.


The tourist time
The tourist time
The tourist, tourists, tourists of time …


Your presence in this lack ..

“I am sending a message, to him avoiding his age, you must be a shock when you rock around the times?
Forget not your family, friends, today … Your presence here lacks … the good old current time!”

Well, I’ve only been gone a few minutes. Okay, I will be returning soon!

Also playing in the video is “La Que Me Gusta” by Los Amigos Invisibles.

JOE GREENWOOD: 20,000 Leagues Into The Sky — Schafe Können Sicher Weiden, Sheep May Safely Graze

I was first introduced to “Schafe können sicher weiden” through a performance by Georgian pianist Kathia Buniatishvili, in a splendid outdoor setting among what appeared to me the trees of some magical forest out of a mystical dream, that I happened across via YouTube. And like many things that are happeneing on the Internet, and as in dreams and in life, I don’t even recall how I got there.

Kathia is a brilliant and beautiful musician who I recommend all to listen when you have several indulgent hours to spare. You’ll need them, as you’ll neither be able to turn away eyes nor ears, while her wild fingers play out the dazzling emotions from within a heart and soul. Again, YouTube has a beginners’ trove of material of sound; or for anyone fortunate enough to visit a performance in person, by all means, put yourself there. That we all could express ourselves so positively, skillfully and forcefully as Khatia Buniatishvili. Khatia, brilliant, thank you.

The “Das Waldkonzert” program (see link above) rolls credits beneath “Schafe können sicher weiden”, which now had struck my ear to consciousness and led me to seek out more information on the tune. Wikipedia informs me “Sheep may safely graze” is the translation, and it is a piece of the larger “Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd (The lively hunt is all my heart’s desire), BWV 208”, also known as the “Hunting Cantata,” composed in 1713 by Johann Sebastian Bach for the 31st birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels. Indeed, that we all could express ourselves so positively, skillfully, and forcefully as Bach.

I read, somewhere else, that although the piece is commonly considered archetypically pastoral, a deeper understanding of the fuller text illuminates the political sentiment and moral insight that I am grateful to take away: “Sheep can safely graze where good shepherds watch. Where rulers govern well, quiet and peace flourish, and all that makes a people happy.”

This evident royal flattery by the Duke’s court sticks with me, and guides me somehow as a moral compass, explaining and instilling wisdom in my mind, as I listen to perhaps my favorite playing of the piece, by the American, Leon Fleisher. Again, listen on YouTube:

For the past several days, Leon has played when I arrive at my desk for work.  I keep yesterday’s unfinished browser tabs open, so that the next day when I restart the computer, they return.  The YouTube page with this video reloads, and the music plays.  It sets a wave of calm across my thoughts, and sorts the air neatly around me.  The soothing cadence of the music provides me an ordered mind.

This guidance I speak of has to do with my family, and my job as a father for my children. Many times I am scourged by a fearful, worrying feeling, a vague thought that I have not prepared them well, have not provided a safe and plentiful home, or have otherwise been insufficient in some manner in setting up their lives. But why should I? Sheep may safely graze where good shepherds watch. I am reminded to do well for my family, to use my time wisely and to do all that I can for others whose lives can be improved by my well tending. [Indeed, when in 2007 Fleisher received Kennedy Center Honors, Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman described him as “a consummate musician whose career is a moving testament to the life-affirming power of art.” -Wikipedia Life-affirming, indeed.]

As I listen to the song, especially as played through the calm, thoughtful and caring hands and hearts of Leon and Kathia, I am relaxed, instructed and reassured that simplicity, and a steady pace, creates harmony and beauty.

To this insight, and to this direct improvement of my life, of course, I owe thanks and gratitude to Johann Sebastian Bach. The composer’s brilliance is renowned throughout the ages, and now I have this specific personal instance of learned wisdom gained, thanks especially to these performances by such masters of their musical craft, to vouch for my agreement to this truth. Thank you, Buniatishvili, thank you, Fleisher, thank you, Bach.

Enlightenment attained, I wondered if I could share this wonderful music myself, with my friends, on my guitar. It is probably, despite my impression of its sounding ‘simple’, a somewhat difficult arrangement to actually play, especially on the relatively cumbersome tonal layout of the guitar fretboard. I searched YouTube and found Russian guitarist Andrei Krylov’s masterful rendition:

Krylov is also a writer and poet. He has transcribed the Book of Psalms to Russian, and published several books: “Lake Monastery,” “Autumn,” and the crown of sonnets, “Mirrors, Game of Life.” I learned that from Wikipedia.

I hope to search out these books and read some of Andrei Krylov’s poems. His performance on the guitar of “Schafe können sicher weiden” in the video above will help me to learn to play it myself, and thus further enjoy, and share it. And so, thank you, too, Andrei Krylov. Bravo!