Fans creating space for world-class music

From left, Kaitlyn Alexandra McMonigle, Bill Doherty, Todd Wilander and Marcel d’Entremont perform during the Opera Club of The Villages’ presentation of the Three Tenors Plus One.

Villages resident lifestyle group leaders attend music festivals with fists full of business cards, compose letters to universities and connect with internationally acclaimed artists. Music clubs in The Villages are booking entertainers from around the world in effort to keep meetings engaging and continue support of various genres of music. As a result, residents can enjoy world-class musicians without leaving The Villages and enjoy high-quality performances of the genres they love. And groups who bring in internationally acclaimed entertainers help strengthen The Villages’ reputation as a cultural center. Whether you’re jazzed about jazz, head over heels for opera or all about the blues, you don’t have far to look for high-quality entertainment.

Blues

Diehard blues lovers Mark and Marcia Adams, of the Village Palo Alto, lived in Atlanta for 15 years before moving to The Villages.

In Atlanta, they could always find some kind of blues event going on, and they missed that.

In 2017 they started The Villages Blues Society, a club that hosts live blues music at every meeting.

“We had a lot of connections within the blues world, so we decided to test the waters, and the reception has been fantastic,” Mark said. “We’re up to almost 900 members now, and we’re selling out almost every show. I think there was a pent-up demand for it here.”

Booking acts was difficult at first while they were getting established, but it’s gotten a lot easier over time.

Mark and Marcia work with booking agencies and discover new talent at festivals and on blues cruises.

“Now that we’re established and the word is getting out, they’re starting to come to me,” Marcia said. “I get emails and phone calls, and we’re talking from people who are up for Grammys.”

The club has hosted acts from all over the world, including the Blues Beatles from Brazil and Paul Deslauries from Canada.

“At one point, he was doing a guitar solo, and the entire room was dead silent listening to him,” Marcia said of Deslauries.

And the reception for the Blues Beatles, which plays blues interpretations of Beatles music, was so positive that they are booked for more performances in 2020.

Some of the other entertainers who have played for the club include West Palm Beach-based blues guitarist Mark Telesca, 2018 Blues Music Awards Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year Curtis Salgado and Memphis vocalist and harmonica player Brandon Santini.

The Villages Blues Society’s events aren’t just for members. Non-members can also attend the club’s recreation center events, as long as they are a Villages resident or a guest with a Guest ID.

To view upcoming Blues Society events and purchase tickets, visit thevillagesblues.com.

Opera and Classical

Meanwhile, members of the Opera Club of The Villages are still flying high from their recent “An Enchanted Evening” event at Eisenhower Recreation Center, which featured Russian-American violinist Yefim Romanov, award-winning tenor Pavel Suliandziga, Central Florida flutist Julia Sills and local vocalist Victoria Sexton.

The event raised funds for the group’s Harold S. Schwartz Music Scholarship.

“There was a warm, beautiful feeling in the Eisenhower,” said Gerri Piscitelli, president of the Opera Club.

The Opera Club hosts two big shows a year, “Three Tenors Plus One” and “An Enchanted Evening.” At club meetings, they typically enjoy live presentations by Maestro Bill Doherty and the Central Florida Lyric Opera.

“The original idea was to offer residents who were coming from major cities and had enjoyed opera and symphony to continue their interests here,” Piscitelli said.

The club started by reaching out to universities and performers with the Metropolitan Opera.

Doherty, director of music at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church, has a lot of ties in New York and is able to help the club network.

In past “An Enchanted Evening” and “Three Tenors Plus One” shows, they have brought in Fanyong Du, a tenor from Mannes College of Music, Adam Rothenberg, a pianist and graduate from The Juilliard School, John McVeigh, a tenor with the Metropolitan Opera and many more. 

Each program raises funds for the Harold S. Schwartz Music Scholarship, which is awarded to high-school students in the tri-county area who are planning to continue their music education in college.

Many of the students go on to become professional musicians and then come back to perform in the Opera Club’s programs.

One of the group’s favorites is Devin Eatmon, a former recipient of the Harold S. Schwartz Music scholarship and a tenor who has gone on to perform at the Aspen Music Festival and teach at Florida State University.

Eatmon will be one of the three tenors featured in The Opera Club’s Feb. 15 performances of “Three Tenors Plus One” at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.

The Opera Club was founded in 1997 and has around 250 members, but is still open to new members.

“An Enchanted Evening,” typically in November, and “Three Tenors Plus One,” typically in February, are open to the public.

The club holds meetings at 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month at Laurel Manor Recreation Center.

Jazz

And musicians come from afar to perform at the Jazz Lovers’ Club and the Jazz & More Jazz Club’s meetings.

Originally, club members would file into a recreation center to listen to historic presentations by recording artists in the jazz world on CDs and DVDs, but when Walter and Barbara Griffith took over the Jazz Lovers’ Club, they decided to host live entertainment at every meeting.

Walter also books the monthly entertainment for the Jazz & More Jazz club.

They started by tapping into the pool of musicians in the Orlando area, but now they are bringing in internationally known jazz artists from Austria to New Orleans.

This year’s lineup includes international jazz stars like Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott and Eddie Metz, as well as Austrian artist Simone Kopmajer and Jacksonville-based group the Raisin Cake Orchestra.

Many jazz artists play in clubs and have to compete with dropping plates, waitresses moving in front of them and loud diners, Walter said.

“When they come to us, we sit and listen,” he said. “We applaud their talent and buy their CDs. As a result of that, I’ve been fortunate to have people contact me saying they’d love to come.”

Barbara and Walter go to jazz festivals and sometimes bring back individual musicians who perform in a group at one meeting and with a different group at another meeting.

Villages residents who aren’t members can still attend the meetings of both jazz clubs.

Membership dues are $10 a year plus $10 at each performance. Non-members pay $15 at the door.

Proceeds go toward the Jazz Lovers’ Club’s Bob Washington Jazz Scholarship, which is open to high school seniors and freshmen and sophomores in college.

The Jazz Lovers’ Club meets at 6 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Laurel Manor Recreation Center and the Jazz and More Jazz club meets at 5:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month at Paradise Recreation Center.

“We have some really great times,” Walter said. “We have nights that are just magical, and the bar is raised again every time.”

Senior writer Kristen Fiore can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5270, or kristen.fiore@thevillagesmedia.com.