Over in Rindge: Taylor Ratcliffe – Open mic events return with Music at the Museum

Published: 03-16-2023 11:35 AM

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Ray Siekierski, Karla MacLeod and Mark Cantrill, Music at the Museum will be returning this year for another series of open mic events over in Rindge.

On Saturday, March 25, on the Rindge Meeting House stage, the first of six scheduled open mic sessions known as Music at the Museum will kick off, with proceeds to benefit the Rindge Historical Society and Museum.

I talked recently with Siekierski, MacLeod and Cantrill about the upcoming open mic events, while also connecting with Rindge resident and musician David Lister to learn about its beginnings. It all started in 2012, when Lister saw an opportunity for a musical performance space in town.

“When I decided in late 2012 that it would be a great experience to run an open mic and that I felt Rindge would really benefit from one, I pondered what nonprofit would be, for me, a good choice to team up with,” Lister said of his decision to seek out a partnership with the Rindge Historical Society. Lister sought out Macleod, the Rindge Historical Society president. With her support and partnership, the pair earned approval from the Historical Society’s board to begin, what was then known as The Meeting House Stage.

Lister, who has been involved in the New England open mic scene for years, said that what he, MacLeod and a handful of valuable volunteers started in Rindge was an experience of “musical and culinary synergy.” In other words, great musical talents were paired with delicious meals to enjoy.

“I’ve played a lot of open mics over the years, and what made the one in Rindge stand out was the amazing food we provided. Between Karla, and my wife, Elisa Benincaso, and with a lot of additional help from other members of the Historical Society and friends, the food was pretty amazing.”

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MacLeod also remembers the value that food brought to the gathering of people and to the live music experience. As a longtime fan of folk music, MacLeod spent time years ago at The Folkway in Peterborough listening to local talents. She recalls that sense of community and how the food and music really brought people together.

As an audience member, Siekierski was most impacted by the music of The Meeting House Stage. He recalls the years Lister and MacLeod ran the open mic well, describing Lister, the emcee, as a sort of Ed Sullivan introducing The Beatles.

“The intense rawness of these local amateur performers blew me away. Sitting in the front row, I was able to pick up on their expressions, gestures, their eyes, hear every sound coming from their amplified voice. I loved it.” Siekierski recalls. “I was amazed.”

Siekierski first attended The Meeting House Stage at the urging of his late wife, Kate. In his 50s, Siekierski picked up guitar and began performing at home for his family and his cats. Again, at his wife’s urging, Siekierski built up the confidence to contact Lister and asked to be put in the open mic lineup.

“I was so nervous, but I did it! I was so pleased with myself and so happy,” he said.

In 2019, after seven successful and rewarding years of running The Meeting House Stage, both Lister and MacLeod decided to step away. With COVID taking hold and gatherings ceasing, The Meeting House Stage went dark. In the three years that followed, Siekierski reflected on the value of live music in Rindge and the impact it had on him. He felt determined to see these open mic sessions return.

“I wanted to have these events continue to provide, or at least to offer, local musicians what had been offered to me,” he said. “Because it was so important to me. I’m just a regular guy, but through this endeavor I have been able to meet so many wonderful people.”

In 2022, Siekierski approached MacLeod about partnering with him to bring back the music to Rindge. MacLeod considered the offer, and accepted. With the technical support and musical talents of Siekierski’s neighbor, Mark Cantrill, the trio re-envisioned The Meeting House Stage to create Music at the Museum. Since its first events last year, Music at the Museum has kept with the traditions of collecting $5 suggested donations to support the nonprofit Rindge Historical Society and of serving its guests and entertainers delicious desserts.

When asked about the interesting partnership between a small-town historical society and a live music venue, the consensus among the three organizers was clear -- the music, similar to a visit to the Rindge Museum, is like a trip back in time: stripped down to basics, to the essentials.

Even Cantrill, who predominantly mans the technical aspects of the open mic sessions, sees the importance of amplifying just enough to create sound reinforcement. Interfering with the raw sound of the artists through unnecessary amplifying and sound enhancement is avoided.

Music at the Museum organizers strongly encourage talents of all ages and abilities to sign up to perform. Whether it be music, or spoken word, or some other form of expression, Music at the Museum exists to keep the arts alive in Rindge.

And like the artifacts of the museum it supports, Siekierski sees the future of music and performing arts in Rindge as history in the making.

“The rest is history. Or maybe will become history. Certainly historical,” he said.

Thank you, Ray Siekierski, Karla MacLeod, Mark Cantrill, David Lister and so many others for keeping the arts alive in Rindge. The Music at the Museum open mic series is scheduled monthly between March and October from 1 to 4 p.m.. Location will be at the Rindge Meeting House on Payson Hill Road or at the Rindge Museum on School Street depending on the event date. For information or to receive a schedule, send email to Siekierski at nooniekirk52@gmail.com

To share your stories, contact me at rindgecommcorr@yahoo.com.