In 2006, we put a timber frame addition on our house, which was quite a project, Harbor Springs musician Dale Scott says with a laugh, when we got done - we wondered why we had done it.
Plenty of regional and national folk and jazz musicians know why. Because that addition would become one of Northern Michigans most unusual and intimate concert venues.
We decided it would be the perfect spot for house concerts, Scott says.
Scott and his wife, Maureen Scott, are well known around the region as the Peacemeal String Band, so who better to host those very concerts in the Scotts own house - and a concert series was born.
The large timber frame addition features big windows and vista views of the Scotts gardens, as well as their resident chickens and a small flock of sheep. Not your typical venue, true - but the Scotts, with all of their musical experience, have taken a wide range of measures to make the facilities top-notch.
We can hold as many as 60 people, Scott says, and the acoustics are very good. Weve taken all the walls out of the inside of our house so we can see and hear the performers from just about anywhere. I think its a very pleasing and comfortable venue.
And so do the performers. Rhubarbary Guest Concerts run May through October (except for July - we dont have any in July, as there are too many other things going on, Scott says), and have featured such local favorites as Claudia Schmidt and international traveling musician Jack Williams. And sticking with that home-grown feel, the concerts are casual affairs, with chickens clucking away outdoors and cheese and crackers being shared among new friends.
We encourage people to bring beverages and things along to eat, so we have a little snack break in between sets, Scott explains, and in the summer, people can walk through the gardens.
FUN AND FUNDRAISERS
Speaking of gardens, Scott and his wifes project does its part to benefit local charities, too, one of the most recent being for local organic gardening non-profit Farming For Our Future; when a special fundraising event isnt being held, the door charges go to the musicians at a rate much higher than most venues would pay.
We usually ask for a $12 donation per person for each show, Scott says, we keep about $50 for advertising, and the rest goes to the entertainers.
Its not really a money-making venture for the Scotts, he explains - just a way to offer a pleasant venue for our friends and fellow musicians.
The Scotts have installed a P.A. system for the musicians to use, as well, but he says that many people dont even use it.
Like I said, the acoustics are very good, he enthuses, Claudia (Schmidt) has played here three or four times, and her voice is so good she doesnt need a sound system.
Rhubarbary Farms concert room has such natural, organic acoustics that it can actually handle a wide range of musical sounds. In addition to regular Schmidt, Scott says theyve also had string bands, jazz musicians, and a duo of hammer dulcimer players, among others.
Upcoming shows will include vintage country musician Mary Sue Wilkinson along with Roger Brown; jazz/swing guitarist and folk singer Ray Kamalay (hell be here later this summer or early in the fall, Scott says); local guitarist Steve Little; and a return visit from Schmidt. More benefit shows are also in the works.
In late August, were planning to start an annual fundraiser for the local food banks, Scott says, our band Peacemeal will be playing at that; well try to get another local group or individual to donate their time, and then the funds will go to the food banks.
PEACEMEAL AND PERFORMANCES
Peacemeal fans will probably wonder how often theyll get to see Peacemeal themselves perform at Rhubarbary Farm; but according to Scott, those performances are few and far between.
We dont really normally perform here ourselves, he chuckles, we try to get jobs elsewhere, and promote other people here.
So just how taxing is it to have that many people showing up at your house on a semi-regular basis?
Weve learned to do this without it being a huge imposition on our lives, Scott explains, the first couple of times, it was like, holy cow, what have we done, trying to make sure everything was perfect. But the reality is, this is where we live, and people seem to enjoy visiting our house to enjoy an evening of music.
Being musicians ourselves, we know its really nice when you can go to a place where people are really listening to you, he continues, theyve showed up to hear you, they arent babbling in the background, and you arent playing as background music. Its a nice thing, and you walk away with some cash in your pocket, too. Its really rewarding, knowing that weve been able to assist the local and traveling minstrels so that they can continue to do what they do.
Mary Sue Wildkinson and Roger Brown perform June 5 at the Rhubarbary. For more info on the series, visit www.peacemealstringband.com (see Upcoming Events), or phone 231-537-7339. All shows take place at the Scotts Rhubarbary Farm in Harbor Springs.