Summer On the Porch: Rooster's Roster Ready
Everything about Janet Kenworthy -- her house, her profession, her projects -- seems sensible, logical and real.
Her husband trained thoroughbreds on Long Island. Race people wear hats. Kenworthy had a crafty way with fabrics. She became a milliner.
The family moved to a rambling homestead in Aberdeen, built by Malcolm Blue. She missed the affordable, available, diverse, family-friendly music scene they had enjoyed in New York. In 2006 Kenworthy initiated an all-of-the-above Rooster's Wife concert series in her home during winter and, come spring, at the Postmaster's House.
Play it and they will come.
The music moves outside Sunday, May 17, where concerts continue until Sept. 27.
"I grew up in a household where we were exposed to music -- and taught to be a good audience," Kenworthy says.
It's only natural that she wanted the same for her four children: Broadway shows, summer musicales (from pop to classical) on the lawn in Oyster Bay. Over the years Kenworthy volunteered at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. She is involved with the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in Silk Hope, the Bluegrass Festival at Malcolm Blue Farm and Merlefest in Wilkesboro.
Three years ago, while in New Orleans, Kenworthy experienced a visceral reaction.
"There wasn't enough music in my life (in North Carolina)," she says. "Music builds community. Without it, communication is lost. But I can't complain unless I've made an effort to rectify the situation myself."
Kenworthy consulted with friend Joe Newberry and folk musician Jon Parsons about opening her house for a "low-key" performance. The response was anything but. One hundred enthusiastic people showed up.
"It was a huge pleasure to have this wonderful music in my home," Kenworthy (who keeps chickens and is the self-styled Rooster's Wife) says.
The porch and lawn of the Postmaster's House better accommodates families with children who wander freely rather than squirm in a seat.
Kenworthy was soon attracting name-brand traveling artists as well as like-minded locals.
"I select people whose tastes align with mine," she says. Word spreads along the genre grapevine. No formal audition is required although Kenworthy sometimes catches a show anonymously before extending an invitation. She looks for performers with stage presence suited to the intimate setting and beefs up the gig by arranging performances in schools.
Kenworthy bubbles about this summer's lineup, which includes Harvard MBA Alison Brown and her bluegrass quartet; Stevie Coyle, a founding member of the Waybacks; a swing band called Shout Sister, Shout; Holy Ghost Tent Revival -- big brass, no religion.
Mollie O'Brien, Kenworthy says, "sould sing the phone book and I'd be happy." Missy Raines is the most decorated bass player in bluegrass history and Ameranouche, a gypsy jazz band, played at the Newport Jazz Festival.
"Sadly, the state of the economy may help us because people aren't traveling as much," Kenworthy concludes. "Events like this maintain a sense of community in hard times."
The scene is a poster. Quilts and lawn chairs spread across the grass, picnic baskets filled with sushi, fried chicken and watermelon, little ones chasing fireflies, music (vocal, instrumental, folk, jazz, bluegrass) played on the front porch of an historic village landmark as the summer sun sets on the Rooster's Wife herself clucking approval.
"This is amazing it doesn't remind me of anything I've done before," says longtime attendee Julie Wick, of Southern Pines. "You listen to these performers tell stories about how they came up with songs while driving through Iowa at night. You're close to the creative process, physically and emotionally. Everybody is so happy. Janet brings good vibrations."
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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