Date(s) - 04/15/2023
When singer-songwriter Tom Irwin found an old book in his family’s Central
Illinois farmhouse, he had no idea where it would take him. It was a diary, written in 1893 by
Harry Glen Ludlam, a 16-year-old boy who lived on the farm that has been in Irwin’s family for
the last 128 years.
Skip to 2023, and Irwin will be bringing the resulting folk/Americana musical to the Varsity on
April 15, 2023.
The diary Irwin found described events in the lives of the Ludlam family, from routine aspects of
farm work to adventures like visiting the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, to a family
crisis that forever changed their lives.
Reading the diary entries, Irwin got caught up in the boy’s story. The entries inspired him to
write a series of interconnected songs, which were released as an acclaimed 2012 album,
“Sangamon Songs.” The entries later became the outline for a full-fledged theatrical show,
adapted by playwright John W. Arden, also called “Sangamon Songs.”
Irwin’s musical, which debuted in 2019, will be presented at the Varsity on Saturday, April 15 at
7 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 and are available at Eventbrite (bit.ly/3VH7E2T). Tickets are not
available in advance at the venue but can be purchased on the night of the show when doors
and the Varsity Bar open at 6.
The two-character work features Irwin narrating the story and performing his “Sangamon
Songs.” John Gifford Irwin plays Harry Glen Ludlam. Owen Thomas Irwin accompanies the cast
on guitar, with Polly Launay on violin.
For more than 35 years, Tom Irwin has been a leading figure in the Central Illinois music scene,
playing in solo acoustic settings and as the front man for Tom Irwin’s Hayburners. In addition to
“Sangamon Songs,” he has released nine recordings of original material, including 2017’s “All
That Love,” produced by John Stirratt of Wilco.
The Varsity is downtown Carbondale at 418 S. Illinois Ave. Go to www.thevarsitycenter.org for