Music jams a highlight of Friday arts festival

HUNTINGTON-Guitarist Steve Hamlin welcomes musicians – and music enthusiasts – to an Open Mic Music Jam on July 5 at North Hall.

The event is part of the annual Historic North Hall Arts Festival, now celebrating its 10th year. Festival offerings range from theatrical performances and art exhibitions to musical shows. The open mic is free, however, donations are graciously accepted at the door.

“The setting is very casual,” said Hamlin, noting that traditionally participants gather in a song circle.

Beginning at 7 p.m., Hamlin takes the lead to start the program and encourages participants to join in, however, there is “no pressure at all” to participate during a particular song.

“We have a core group that comes out and accompanies other people and we welcome new creative energy from others,” said Hamlin.

Hamlin added he is always receptive to whoever takes the stage and notes that songs range from Beatles tunes to doo-wop. 

“We never know who will turn out,” said Hamlin, joking that musicians tend to be a “graying crowd.”

During a typical Music Jam, Hamlin said there is a wide range of music played, from acoustic and country, to blues, soft and classic rock, and tunes from the 1950’s.

“We get a good turn out for our music jams since North Hall is acoustically special,” said Hamlin, adding most shows wrap up at approximately 9:30.

While Hamlin has coordinated music jams at Stanton Hall since 2003, he took the reins five years ago for the summer arts festival music jams at North Hall.

“Each person has an opportunity to take the lead during the jam,” said Hamlin. “We have people who are just starting out as well as seasoned musicians.”

For musicians interested in joining Hamlin’s email list for future music jams, send a message to him at [email protected].

As part of the North Hall Arts Festival, an additional Open Mic Music Jam is slated Aug. 2, also beginning at 7 p.m.

Upcoming festival performances also include a show by the Berkshire Mountain Boys on July 14 at 2 p.m., $10 at the door and students are admitted free. The group performs bluegrass, traditional and contemporary folk, gospel and country music with autoharp, banjo, guitar, mandolin and vocals. Also, Wild Thyme takes the stage on July 28 at 2 p.m., performing traditional Irish and Scottish music and Celtic fare on fiddles, guitars and more. Tickets are $10 at the door and students are free.

In August, a free staged reading of “The Chalk Garden,” a play by British playwright Enid Bagnold, will be conducted Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. The play is a combination of thriller and drawing room comedy, according to director Mitch Giannunzio. A summer afterparty celebration follows and donations will be welcomed.

Also during August, La Voz de Tres will perform Aug. 25 at 2 p.m., blending Latin rhythms and jazz. Tickets are $10 at the door and students will be admitted free.

The festival wraps up in September with the Bob Sparkman Trio on Sept. 8 at 2 p.m., performing jazz and swing tunes, and the Old Country Road Band will take the stage Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. for a country and bluegrass music concert. Tickets for both events are $10 at the door and students are admitted free.

North Hall is located at 40 Searle Road. For more information on all festival performances, visit www.northhallhuntington.org.

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