Patti McGregor wasn’t just the MC.
The longtime member of the Delta arts community strapped on her acoustic guitar for a bluesy opening number at a recent Open Mic Night at the Firehall Centre for the Arts.
The monthly Delta Arts Council event had an audience of about 40 people, a good start for a new season after a long summer break.
There was a “smashing lineup” to come, she told the crowd. “We have a variety of poetry and a variety of singing styles, and we have a little surprise towards the end.”
The rules at an Open Mic Night are simple: Pay your $4, sit and watch, or sit and wait to be called for your two performances, in any style.
It’s a backstage club for people to experiment in front of a crowd, where performances can be musicians, comedians, poets and improvisational artists – it the mix varies from night to night.
One restriction: “We don’t want 40 verses for one song,” McGregor said in mock admonishment. “That’s not very fair.”
The evening’s highlights:
• Marilyn Kruger, a North Delta resident for 25 years, played two bluegrass songs using a metal slide on her “new toy,” a resonator guitar in her lap. It was her fourth performance at an Open Mic Night. “I live to sing,” she said after the show, adding that she started playing guitar seven years ago “because I didn’t have anybody to accompany me.” She told her audience: “I love that this opportunity has been given to us to come out and share some of our music.”
• Doris Lavoie, a senior Metis from Manitoba with a deep vibrato voice, played two bluesy acoustic songs. She has played across Canada, and can be found on a Youtube video from 2007.
• North Delta Grade 12 student Jeremiah Ackermann, in his sixth visit, multi-tasked with an acoustic guitar, vocals and a bass drum and crash cymbal operated by foot pedal. Ackermann, who has played guitar for less than two years, performed at Watershed Artworks Society’s grand opening in September.
• Delta Arts Council regular and “arctic blonde” Leah Catherall and Bobby Dixon, Open Mic Night’s sound man, played two piano instrumentals apiece. (Dixon played both classical and Coldplay.)
• Russ Morgan, a self-described “old fogie” went a cappella with two oldies-but-goodies. The second song, he said, was rehearsed in the shower.
• Accompanied by her husband Brian on guitar, Linda McCrumb sang Autumn Leaves and Let It Be Me.
• Sands Secondary grad Shayla Gibson, 18, fought her nerves to recite a poem she wrote in class, and then sang The Celtic Thunder song A Place in the Choir in hybrid a cappella/iPod form.
• Ophelia Gabriel played Ray Charles and Olivia Newton John songs with a ukulele.
• After singing Waltz Across Texas, Peter Scott taught the crowd how to mimic the sound of a bagpipe by plugging the nose and tapping the voice box with the side of one’s hand. The lesson was for a song about the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot, also known as The Black Watch.
McGregor said the Open Mic Night is “the best mix of an inter-generational audience that I’ve seen. It’s not just us old fogies.”
She’s also urged visitors to consider getting involved in group numbers for the end of the show (though not bands, which take too long to set up in this venue.)
Indeed, the “little surprise” McGregor promised to finish the show was a quartet accompanied by Brian McCrumb on guitar.
“Whenever I get good harmonies, the hair at the back of my neck stands up,” said McGregor.
Open Mic Nights take place on the last Friday of each month (from September to November and from January to May) at 7:30 p.m. at the Firehall Centre for the Arts (114889 84 Ave). Anyone is welcome to attend. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $4. For more information, call 604-581-6270.
The next show takes place on Friday, Oct. 28.