EACH SUMMER, Columbia Management sponsors concerts in eight of Columbia's nine village centers - a local tradition.
Every week, in each village center courtyard, an acoustic guitarist, jazz fusion band or blues duo will serenade listeners. Residents bring folding chairs and buy a meal from nearby restaurants. Lunchtime business crowds and shoppers pass by. Mothers with toddlers in tow stop and linger.
Thirteen years ago, the first of the concerts began in Kings Contrivance as a partnership between the village center and Hammond High School to showcase the school's bands. Today, the concert series features professional musicians.
Consistent, open-air and free, the series has become a part of life in Columbia. Local musicians are often featured, and the concerts are important to the performers who share their music with their neighbors.
"I am expressing something deep inside when I perform," said Oakland Mills resident Jim Alvey, who will play with his band Blue Steele in the Kings Contrivance courtyard next month.
While other villages have ended or are winding down this season's series, the concert series at Kings Contrivance is going strong. The village has the longest season for the concerts, with scheduled performances from mid-May to mid-October.
Still to come this season are the Bill Mott Band, performing Americana and classic rock Friday; the Dangertones, a classic rock and blues band, Sept. 29; Don Chapman and Johnny Abrahams, who play acoustic pop, Oct. 6; Blue Steele, a blues group, Oct. 13; and folk performer Bill Parsons, Oct. 20.
Concerts run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Information: Kathleen VanNostrand of Columbia Management, 410-992-3600.
Musicians and neighbors
Three of the concerts in the Kings Contrivance Courtyard Concert Series will feature east Columbia residents: Alvey, of Blue Steele, and Kings Contrivance residents Mott, of the Bill Mott Band, and Chapman.
Alvey, Mott and Chapman, part-time musicians in their 40s, have musical careers with a common thread: a relationship between their life struggles and their music.
A survivor of three heart attacks and triple bypass surgery, Mott produced his first compact disc while recuperating from a heart transplant.
Chapman, a recovering alcoholic, stopped performing 16 years ago when he gave up drinking and did not return to his craft until three or four years later when he "got comfortable to go into bars."
Alvey started playing the blues with Blue Steele slightly more than a decade ago because the genre embodies hardship.
"I've always felt empathy for people who have challenges in life, and there's certainly nothing that brings it closer to home than the blues," he said.
Advised not to work full-time or strain himself for at least a year after his transplant in 1995, Mott, now a 20-year veteran of the Baltimore-Washington music circuit, decided to spend his recovery period living a lifelong dream. He produced the CD on his label and released it the next year.
"It was really therapeutic," said Mott, who hoped to sell 200 copies and has sold 1,600 to 1,800.
The album was picked up by an independent label overseas and was reviewed by Billboard in Europe.
It is composed of original songs that Mott calls "roots rock 'n' roll," reminiscent of Bob Seger and Jimmy Buffett. It features Mott on guitar with fellow guitarist Bill Kirchen, a 10-time Washington Area Music Award (WAMMIE) winner, Jeff Sarli, who played bass on the Rolling Stones' CD "Bridges to Babylon," pianist Deanna Bogart and others.
Chapman - a self-taught guitarist who has performed with the Coasters, the Drifters and the Platters, as well as 3 Dog Night, England Dan & John Ford Coley and Ted Nugent - is recording his first CD in his home studio.
He and partner Abrahams, a bassist, play covers of classics from the Eagles and Crosby, Stills and Nash, as well as more contemporary music from the Gin Blossoms and the Rembrandts.
Alvey, who sells advertising for The Sun, released his first CD last year. Titled "One Step Closer to the Blues," it is a mixture of original music and cover songs.
Blue Steele's style evokes Muddy Waters or Little Walter, Alvey says, "but we also play Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton. We do quite a mixture of older and new blues."
Alvey and Mott perform as regular hosts of Tuesday night open-mike sessions at Michael's Pub on Guilford Road in Kings Contrivance Village Center.
Information: 410- 290-7878.