Pete Seeger’s legacy reminds us that music-making can be for everyone, a shared pastime with friends in a comfortable, ego-free environment. (All the better if the music is accompanied by a tasty repast.) And the free Community Concert Series on the first Saturday of each month at the Gardiner Library provides just that. The tone is set at the beginning of the evening with a vegetarian community potluck at 6 p.m. An open mic begins at 6:45 p.m. for anybody who shows up and wants to play, followed by the featured performer at 7:30 p.m.
Gardiner-based Tim Hunter, a folk singer and songwriter who used to play with Pete Seeger, organizes the events. “This area is so rich in musicians and in people who love acoustic and lyric-driven music, but there needed to be a good listening room where people can come and try stuff out and people can really appreciate the music,” he says. “To have an open mic like this where it’s all about the art, and not about posing; it’s really about doing the music. It’s really kind of a sacred space.”
Hunter was inspired to start organizing the events last May, in thinking back to the last time he’d performed with Seeger, a memory especially sweet to Hunter because his four young children (ages 10, 8, 6 and 5) got to meet the folk legend that day. “It really kick-started my motivation and intention to start this thing,” says Hunter. “And the first one we did, on May 3, just happened to be on Pete’s birthday. So I feel we’re sort of blessed by Pete.”
The next event will be held this Saturday, February 7. The featured performer will be Jay Mankita, a family friendly folk singer known for his songs promoting sustainability and appreciation of our natural world. The following month will bring Jeremy Mage to Gardiner on Saturday, March 7. Mage is a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter who stretches the boundaries of genre, noted for his “quirky and intimate” songs. On Saturday, April 4, the Ukrainian folk group Korinya will perform.
The potlucks are vegetarian, says Hunter, because “it’s a lot easier being a meat-eater at a vegetarian potluck than the other way around.” Good point; and what about the cutlery and beverages? “Some people bring their own plates and cups, and sometimes someone shows up with them, or with juices or seltzers. People bring all sorts of homemade dishes: quiches, roasted broccoli… one guy brings a pizza… You never know what you’re going to get, but it’s always enough and it’s always good.”
Hunter plans to continue organizing the Community Concert Series on the first Saturday of each month indefinitely. “I want it to be a time on people’s calendars that they can count on,” he says. “They won’t even have to think about it. And it’s been growing… we’ve been getting more and more people each time, and the audience is very appreciative. It’s just wonderful how supportive they are of the performers.”
Hunter, who is known locally for his political action as well as for his music, says in the end, it’s just about “making my world a better place however I can. I try to make the community a little more fun.”
To suggest a featured performer for the series, contact Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Gardiner Library is located off the Rail Trail at 133 Farmer’s Turnpike. For more information, call (845) 255-1255 or visit www.gardinerlibrary.org.