Infinity Performing Arts has teamed up with folk artists Doc and Bill to provide area residents with an opportunity to come together to create music.
The event, called a “hootenanny,” is scheduled for Friday from 7-9 p.m. at Infinity Performing Arts Cafe in Jamestown.
According to Bill Drellow, of Doc and Bill, a hootenanny is a term that might be easiest to describe by explaining what it isn’t.
“A hootenanny isn’t a concert or even an open mic, where one performer at a time entertains an audience from a stage,” said Drellow. “Rather, a hootenanny is a group sing, where everyone participates. Folks can either take the lead by introducing and leading the group on a given song, or hang back and follow along on all the other songs.”
“What this means is that hootenannies are very laid back and comfortable events for people who may not be totally comfortable yet with the idea of standing at a microphone on a stage,” added John “Doc” Hammels.
Doc and Bill’s role during the hootenanny will be to open the festivities with a couple of songs that they hope will set the tone for the evening, and get everyone’s vocal chords warmed up.
“After that, we’ll facilitate the meeting by recognizing people who want to introduce a song, drop in a little folk music lore here and there, and then lead the group in ‘Goodnight, Irene,’ the old Leadbelly tune that often was sung to close a hoot,” said Hammels.
Drellow, who has fond memories of attending hootenannies in New York City as a child, is greatly looking forward to the opportunity to host one.
“I cut my teeth playing at hootenannies as a kid in New York, and I have very fond memories of taking the subway to Greenwich Village on Sundays to join in the weekly hoot at the fountain in Washington Square,” said Drellow. “I’m looking forward to reliving that experience with younger and older ‘folkies’ alike, and maybe helping to establish a new tradition here in Chautauqua County.”
The event was planned in part by Sarah Marchitelli, Infinity’s music coordinator, who will play ukulele during the hootenanny.
“It’s going to be a really good time. Everybody should come, and nobody should feel like they can’t participate because everyone can do something,” said Martchitelli. “This is going to be really good for students who aren’t quite sure if they are ready to perform yet, but maybe this will ease them into it so that they will feel comfortable in front of an audience and playing music with other people.”
According to Shane Hawkins, executive director, Infinity’s students are looking forward to interacting with Doc and Bill, and trying out new material. She said that she hopes that the event goes well so that it can be added as one of the regular cafe components.
“We’re very excited about the hootenanny,” said Hawkins. “For our students, particularly those not yet experienced in performing, this is an exceptionally low-key, relaxed opportunity to explore live performance. So, I hope community members are as excited as we are and join us to play, sing or just watch and enjoy the performance.”
Josh Reuter, an Infinity student, said he is excited because Infinity has never had anything like this before.
“It sounds like a lot of fun, and I always enjoy when Doc and Bill come in,” said Reuter. “I really enjoy playing music with other people and the chance to play with people who play all different styles of music is insightful.”
Lily Ellis, Infinity student, said she has never been to a hootenanny before so she is excited to try a new experience.
“I am excited to perform with Doc and Bill because they are very experienced both in music and with working with kids,” said Ellis. “They can share with us, and we can share with them.”
Hayley Restivo, another student, said it will be fun because she loves to see local musicians perform. She will bring a guitar, some Bob Dylan songs and some originals.
“I’ve been a professional educator all of my adult life; so I can’t help but see things through young people’s eyes,” said Hammels. “I especially enjoy teaching, and through Infinity, Bill and I have had opportunities to play for, and teach, youth from several communities at both ends of the county. Hootenannies were learning opportunities, as much as anything, back in the day. People shared their songs and musical licks with each other at hoots. I’m looking forward to meeting and talking with youngsters before and after the hoot itself about the songs, the personalities and the instruments of the Folk Era, and reinforcing Infinity’s message that pursuing music and the arts in general can help broaden their outlook throughout their lives.”
The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Infinity Arts Cafe is located at 115 E. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information call 664-0991 or visit www.infinityperformingarts.org.