It could be magic Saturday, March 18 when Jim Witter sits down behind the piano and performs the best hits of singer/songwriter Barry Manilow at Carroll Live on Stage's final concert of the season.
Witter will take audiences on a tour through Manilow's hits of the 1970s and early '80s, while providing a visual tour through the artist's career with facts about the man and his songs appearing behind the performer on stage.
Though today Witter is best known as a performer of the songs of Manilow, Billy Joel and Elton John, he first got his start as a singer/songwriter of his own.
"The only thing I ever thought about or dreamed about or wanted to do since I was a little kid was be a musician," Witter said. "I started probably thinking seriously about making a career in music when I was in high school."
Witter began performing in clubs and piano bars throughout Canada, before being spotted for a record deal at 24. Witter cut several albums in Canada and Nashville, charting several Canadian country hits before realizing he wanted to move onto the next step of his career.
In 2001, he said, he wanted to continue to perform live music, but was looking out of his current record deal because he wanted to expand his reach. While trying to plan out the transition, he said he came up with the idea for "The Piano Men" a journey through the careers of Billy Joel and Elton John set to visuals of the 1970s.
"I expected to do that for maybe a year and then peter out, but these nostalgic shows just started taking off," Witter said. "I literally haven't stopped for the past 16 years."
Recently, Witter developed the Barry Manilow show "I Write the Songs" as a supplement to "The Piano Men" concerts. He said the idea developed due to audience requests following "Piano Men" performances. Witter said it's both exciting and nerve-wracking to perform music as well known as the hits from these '70s giants.
"This is the music I learned to play the piano on; I literally listened to them in my late teens when I was learning to play the piano," Witter said. "On the other hand, even though these songs aren't sacred, you want to do them justice and preserve the original arrangements and the integrity of these songs. It's a challenge as a band and as a singer to do them in the best possible light I can."
The finale of the show, will however, be a slightly bittersweet one, as it represents the final concert for Carroll Live on Stage, a concert organization that has been an institution in the area for more than 30 years. This month, the group announced they were closing their doors and that the final concert by Jim Witter would be their last. According to President Paul Hastman, the decision was made due to both a lack of funds and interest in the shows and sponsorships as well as a decline in volunteers to help run the organization's board.
Despite the closure of Carroll Live on Stage, Witter promises his show will be an uplifting and fun evening for all attendees.
"I'm not out there to wow an audience, my goal is to take them back in time and forget the troubles of the day," Witter said. "Maybe they had a bad week at work, and maybe something is going on in their lives. This music takes us back, makes us forget the present and takes us to the past, even if it's just for a few hours."
Carroll County Daily Headlines
What: Jim Witter concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18
Where: Westminster High School auditorium, 1225 Washington Road, Westminster
For more information: Visit www.carrollliveonstage.org or call 410-848-7123