Talented locals came out to the Royal Canadian Legion Hall Sunday for an afternoon of musical entertainment. These Open Mic sessions, hosted by local singer/songwriter Buzz Hummer, have been taking place on afternoons on the first Sunday of the month since October.
Hummer started the sessions to give members of the community an opportunity to explore their musical interest in a safe and positive environment. It’s a “nice, steady thing, and very relaxed,” he says, and also helps the Legion fill its King Street hall during a slow Sunday afternoon lull. He says about half of the performers return regularly, while the other half show up occasionally. He is always happy to see new performers attend. There is “a lot of talent in this town and it’s nice to be able to showcase it.”
First to kick off the afternoon were Gail Hawkins and Arlyn Levy with No One Will Ever Love You, by John Paul White and Steve McEwan, following it with a Linda Rondstat/Johnny Cash song, and one by the Civil Wars. Hawkins was clearly at ease with the microphone for her second time performing at the Legion. She had seen posters for the event around town and thought she’d give it a try, she says, noting there was a better turnout than last month, with about double the size of the crowd.
Terry Sauchuck played Keep Me From Blowing Away by Paul Croft, and the Johnny Cash rendition of Personal Jesus originally written by Martin Gore of the 80s electronic band, Depeche Mode, and finished his set of three songs with One of Us by Joan Osborne.
Bob Gunns let his harmonica do the singing for him as he performed his instrumentals with a jaunty version of Patsy Cline’s Crazy.
No stranger to performing, Steve Goldberger, took the stage and entertained the audience with tunes such as Come From the Heart and You Turn Me On I’m a Radio, by Joni Mitchell. Goldberger also performs in three bands as well as a regular at the Open Mic afternoon. He can be found at the Old Winery Restaurant on Friday nights with his band The Old Winos, and also around town playing with the Niagara Rhythm Section, and his newest band The Gentle Spirits. Goldberger won Country Artist, Producer and Songwriter of the Year at the 2015 Niagara Music Awards for his work on the album, Cosmic Cowboy.
Next up was the woman with an infectious smile, Julie Van Horne. It was obvious she enjoyed performing, with a laugh as delightful as her singing. She was accompanied by Steve Goldberger and Rayburn Blake, former member of the 70s rock band, Mashmakhan and current performer with The Niagara Rhythm Section. She first sang the Janis Joplin tune, Me and Bobby McGee, and followed it with Michelle Wright’s Love Has No Pride. Lastly, Van Horne picked up her ukulele and strummed to Cold Cold Heart.
Van Horne says she enjoys the event because people “respectfully listen” to the performers. She has sung in a church choir for over 25 years, and picked up the ukulele about three years ago and “got hooked.” She also likes to bring her mother to the Sunday afternoon event because she lives just around the corner and loves the Legion. It gives her mom a chance to get out and enjoy some music and watch her daughter sing, she says.
Sal Fasullo and his harmonizing partner Phaedra entertained the audience with original songs written by Fasullo. He first sang a song entitled Bleeding Hearts, followed by a personal song about a divorce, called Oranges and Lemons, which received more than a few chuckles and nodding heads from the audience. Fasullo and Phaedra, who work together at Peller Estates, closed with a tune titled Bended Knee.
Next up was the youngest performer of the afternoon, 19-year-old Aidan Longo. He started his set with the Tragically Hip’s Bobcaygeon, which he followed up with two songs by St. Catharines native Dallas Green, Sleeping Sickness, and Death of Me.
There was a late addition to the performance list, then since it was well before 5 p.m., Hummer cycled through the list again to see if any performers wanted to have another set.
Gail Hawkins, Terry Sauchuck, Sal Fasullo, and Julie Van Horne, accompanied again by Steve Goldberger and Rayburn Blake, performed a few more tunes.
Aidan Longo performed his encore with Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, to which Buzz Hummer commented, “It’s nice to see someone under 35 singing a Bob Dylan song.”
For the last performance of that set, Buzz Hammer, Scott Harris, and Rayburn Blake performed Wagon Wheel, another Bob Dylan song.
The next Open Mic afternoon at the Royal Canadian Legion will be on Sunday, April 5 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m, or until the last riff fades.