By Kristi Kates
This is probably the best schedule we have been able to put together in the 17 years we have offered shows, grins William Aten, organizer of Aten Place Concerts in Boyne Falls.
Aten - who, perhaps somewhat incongruously, also works as a mathematics consultant and data coach for the Charlevoix-Emmet ISD - runs the Aten Place Concerts shows with his wife, Maxine, and has watched as their house concerts have become part of a growing movement in Northern Michigan.
The Rhubarbary Farm House Concerts in Harbor Springs and the Black Cat Concert Series at the Dhaseleer Events Barn in Charlevoix are two other venues that are spearheading this growing trend - great music being showcased in low-key, homegrown venues, usually privately-owned homes or barns that have been converted into personalized and friendly local concert stages. Aten Place is no exception, and have been doing their musical thing since 1995.
SONGS AND SNACKS
A friend of ours, Nancy Decker, encouraged us to have a house concert in the summer of 95, Aten explains, so we decided to have a potluck dinner, and held the concert in our barn. The performer was Josh White Jr. - and our guests had so much fun, they asked us to do another show that summer.
The ubiquitous Claudia Schmidt was Aten Places second show; she and White would return for two shows the following summer, after which the Atens added a third show, Barbara Bailey Hutchison.
After that, the concept of a summer concert series started to take on a life of its own, Aten says, with each year, we added additional shows and made improvements to the barn, including better seating, a large stage, a quality sound system, stage lighting, and a pavilion for people to picnic prior to a show.
The Atens, who do not operate as a business, but as a non-profit endeavor, dont sell food or drink, and have maintained the potluck concept for the past 16 years of Aten Place shows.
We just encourage our patrons to bring treats that can be shared at intermission, Aten says.
Constructed in 1917, the Atens barn - the well-maintained and quirkily-decorated setting for their shows - is oak post and beam construction, and, Aten says, was originally part of a dairy farm. Sitting on rural, rolling hills that overlook the Boyne Valley, the barns warmth and elderly creaks add to the homegrown setting, and the stage itself is decorated with local memorabilia, plus photos, quilts, and antiques from Northern Michigans logging and railroad eras.
The indirect lighting also provides an atmosphere that allows people the opportunity to reflect on how life was when our valley was part of the major lumbering operation in Northern Michigan, Aten says, it is a truly unique venue, and everyone who has played on our stage loves the ambiance we provide.
With shows taking place only on Saturday nights in July and August, the Aten Place concerts are also a fleeting thing, much like summer in Northern Michigan itself, and both artists and patrons are taking even more notice these days, with a wide range of performers being booked, and costs being kept reasonable for the shows. Single tix start at $15, a pair can usually be snagged for $25, and a seasons pass to all shows can be purchased for just $140 per person.
BEST SHOWS EVER
And now back to that best schedule ever , according to Aten.
We are very proud to be able to offer John McCutcheon, as well as Michael Johnathon, Jeremy Kittle and The Waymores, which is comprised of three outstanding singer-songwriters from Nashville - Tom Kimmel, Sally Barris, and Don Henry, Aten says.
The Atens are dabbling in theater a little this year, as well:
We are also bringing a production company in from downstate to present Jeff Daniels newest play, Escanaba in Love, for three nights in August.
Its a labor of love for the Atens.
There are so many things that we enjoy about hosting the series, he says. We love that we have built a venue that now attracts bigger name artists, and that we can share their talent with our Northern Michigan community. We have focused our attention on singer-songwriters, as well as bringing artists to our stage that rarely, if ever, are seen in our region.
The concerts have also provided us a way to give back to the community, Aten continues, and it is our way of supporting the arts. It is very gratifying to have people come and thoroughly enjoy their evening; there is a spirit of community and fellowship that emerges in our venue, and it is one of the things that brings people back time and time again. It took us a while, but we have come to appreciate and understand the uniqueness of our venue, and the enjoyment it provides a host of people in our region - we love meeting and getting to know our patrons, and look forward to seeing them return each summer.
The Aten Place Concert Series takes place at the Atens barn at 03492 Old Mackinaw Trail in Boyne Falls. A complete concert schedule, tickets, and more information may be found online at www.atenplace.com.
July 2 - Robin Lee Berry, Dave Boutette, John Latini
July 9 - Michael Johnathon
July 16 - Jeremy Kittel Band
July 22 - John McCutcheon
July 27 - LaRon Williams Childrens Matinee (2 pm)
July 30 - Legacy
Aug. 6 - Chasin Steel
Aug. 13 - Barbara Bailey Hutchison
Agu. 20 - Michael Reno Harrell
July 25-27 Escanaba in Love