The mood in the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library was amiable as a group of folk music lovers drifted in to hear the singing of Curtis Teague and Loretta Simonet on Thursday evening.
The library brings in a mix of local and national folk musicians. Teague and Simonet drove from Minneapolis, Minn., to perform that evening.
The seven or eight performances throughout the year serve to counterbalance the large number of children’s programs sponsored by the library. “We thought it was important to offer an adult concert series,” said Sarah Howard, the library’s children and youth services coordinator.
She said musicians contact her for performances after hearing of the venue through other musicians. They often get husband-and-wife teams or solo acts already traveling on the road.
Paul and Win Grace of Columbia have played the venue in the past. And on Feb. 7, 2008, Bob Bovee and Gail Heil of Spring Grove, Minn., will bring their music to Columbia.
Thursday’s duo seemed a good fit for this venue. An appreciative group of almost 40 people gave Howard its full attention as she introduced the pair. She explained that this year is a double anniversary for the couple: 30 years ago, Teague met Simonet while she was playing guitar on a beach in California and ran to grab his mandolin to impress her. Twenty years ago, the two married in Mexico. They have spent their time since then traveling around the world, playing in small venues like the library.
Teague, a jovial man with a graying miniature ZZ Top beard, shot a mischievous grin at the audience as he picked up his mandolin. “I just love going into libraries, you know, and having no one shush me,” he said, his accent reflecting his years in Minnesota. The duo then launched into an hour-long set that included Yiddish melodies, a sea chantey with audience participation and several songs written by Simonet. These included the love song “Just My Heart” and “Gone Forever,” about her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ben Stacy, clad in a black AC/DC shirt, was there with his father, Michael. Both are from Columbia. The elder Stacy read about the concert on a flier and couldn’t pass up the chance for live music.
“Fairly good live music transcends really good recorded music,” he said.
“It’s better than sitting at home on a Thursday night watching TV,” Ben added.
But Buzz Keiper of Columbia had a different interest in the group. His experience with folk music dates back to the folk revivals of the 1960s. He learned to play guitar and used to jam at hootenannies with his friends. Now he plays at local venues, such as Cooper’s Landing.
He loves the opportunity brought by the library. Speaking of Howard, he said: “She brings some absolutely incredible performers in here. And it’s free.”
Teague said the culture of Columbia drew them back to the library. Their last visit was in 2005. They first heard of the venue from the Graces and from Tom Howard, Sarah Howard’s husband, when playing with him at a gig in Arrow Rock.
Simonet said it’s the intimate audiences that keep them on the road for small venues.
“It’s that exchange,” she said, describing the audience-performer link with circular hand gestures. “You can feel it when people are into it. It’s like they give you back energy.”
Based on the chatting between the performers and the audience after the set, the attendees seemed to like having music in their library.
Said Howard, “It’s just something we thought we could offer the community.”