After performing “Fire on the Mountain” last Wednesday, folk musician James Smith pulled on a string that had come loose on his twelve-string guitar.
“I played a gig last Saturday- sixty-five songs in four hours,” he told the crowd of twenty seated in the Elma Public Library conference room, referring to his gig at Lei-Tei Campgrounds in Batavia. “So this has been through a lot.” He plucked the string from the tuning key and sighed.
“Oh well,” he said, holding the guitar up with a smile. “I have eleven more.”
Such was the easy-going attitude, from both crowd and performer, at the Elma Public Library’s celebration of worldwide Make Music Day. Originally launched in Paris in 1982 as a free and open music festival, musicians young and old, experienced or not, play in public spaces for anyone to enjoy free of charge every year on June 21st.
This past Wednesday, the library hosted two musical guests for the festival- Smith, a folk musician from North Collins, and the Rennicks Sisters, a clarinet duo from Lancaster.
Danielle Rennicks, 22, and Emily Rennicks, 15, have each been playing clarinet since second grade. This specific event, however, was only their third time playing to the public as a duo- their first gig was at Roswell downtown last December. “A group from my boyfriend’s fraternity was singing (there),” said Danielle, “and they needed people to go… Emily and I got some Christmas duets together and we’ve been playing since.”
The two sisters, it seems, are very involved with music- while Emily is on guard for the Lancaster High School Color Guard as a performer and dancer, Danielle, a recent Fredonia graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, is on staff as an assistant to the woodwind director for the LHS band.
Their mother Deb said that Emily may not want to follow in Danielle’s footsteps with a musical career. “They sometimes just call (Emily) ‘Danielle’ at school,” said Deb with a laugh, “because they look similar and they were in the same sections in the band.”
“They do,” confirmed Emily as she flipped a page in the score. “They just call me Danielle.”
For their hour-long performance at the library’s entrance, Danielle played bass clarinet, Emily played clarinet, and the two read Disney music from one of their piano books. Danielle said they chose Disney songs because the Rennicks are “a very Disney family,” and they figured most people know Disney music. They played songs from Pocahontas, Mulan, The Little Mermaid and several other classics. They drew a crowd of families and library-goers alike, stopping to listen to the tunes.
The next performer was James Smith, 55, who got his musical start in a music school in Belgium where he grew up. He moved to America when he was seventeen with his family as his father found a job here, and soon after started a band called Paragon with his friends. “We were teenagers,” he said. “It was the cool thing to do.”
He took a twenty-year hiatus from music, however, when he started a family in the early 80’s- he worked as an electrical engineer and eventually became self-employed in the profession. Once his youngest daughter moved out for college four years ago, he began to play again.
“Just gigs here and there,” he said. “Music’s just a hobby for me, something fun to do.”
Smith was careful about setting gigs up for this summer in particular. His mother’s cancer was getting progressively worse throughout the season, but took her life very shortly before his performance at the library- her funeral was the day before. “She likes Simon and Garfunkel songs,” he said, when asked if any songs remind him of her. “She liked John Denver, that was big in the 80’s… She likes a lot of the songs I play, so they kind of all do, a little bit.”
He played nearly an hour and a half of such folk music from the 60’s and 70’s from popular artists at the time- The Beatles, Bob Dylan, John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel, the latter two of which are his favorites to play.
“When I grew up in Belgium, my father always told us, ‘We’re going back to America next year,’” he said, “and then my dad would have to stay another year… This dragged on for 7 or 8 years, so John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel always reminded me of America- I like playing those kinds the best.”
Smith’s crowd on Wednesday night was mostly people his age, tapping their feet and nodding their head to the music of their time.
East Aurora Advertiser, June 28, 2017 | Hyperlink