The snowdrifts were still piled high, and rain and fog made for a gloomy evening Saturday. But inside the One World Coffeehouse in Owen Brown, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and the music ranged from finger-snapping cool to jazzy hot.
A crowd of about 100 packed a modest-sized room inside Owen Brown Interfaith Center for this latest edition of music and eats sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC).
On tap for the evening was an eclectic blend of pop, rock, folk and jazz by vocalist Vickie Beck, with pianist Michael Adcock and drummer Mark McPherson. The program's second set -- a reprise of Motown hits -- featured vocalist Karen Johnson and vocalist/guitarist Doug Miller, with Kathy Smith on piano and backup vocals, Neil Pregozen on drums, and Beck on electric bass.
Adcock is a professional musician who is also the church's assistant music director. The others are nonprofessionals, but they have played plenty of gigs in the area -- with and without one another. Most of the musicians attend UUCC, and most live in Columbia. Adcock is from Washington and Pregozen lives in Baltimore.
"[It's] an interesting little group of people ... who love music and get together to perform," Smith said.
Smith's 14-year-old son, Alex, worked the spotlight for the evening.
Beck led off the evening with a series of romantic songs and a running schtick -- much appreciated by the audience -- as a torch singer with a strictly G-rated vamp. At one point, she modeled and then rejected a series of goofy hats that friends and family had donated as possible props. She later settled on a white feather boa for some of her songs.
While the banter was comical, the caliber of the music was no joke, as the audience's enthusiasm proved. Beck and Adcock set the mood early with a sweetly harmonic duet of the Simons and Marks classic "All of Me." Adcock made his singing debut with that number and several others in the set. He'd been tapped by Beck to take the place of her husband and usual singing partner, Scott Beck, who was out of town on business.
"I thought I was going to suffer, but I've been enjoying it," Adcock told the audience. Later, he explained that he usually does "hard-core classical stuff" and that singing was a musical stretch that he found "liberating."
Adcock and McPherson donned homburgs and dark glasses while Beck brought out her harmonica, and the trio brought down the house with Billy Joel's "Piano Man," with Adcock belting out the lyrics.
The group rounded out their mix of numbers with two audience-pleasing singalongs: "Edelweiss" and the polka tune "Roll Out the Barrel."
Intermission gave the audience an opportunity to replenish its supplies of free snacks and drinks offered in the lobby. Then Kathy Smith invited everyone to "roll back the carpet, dance a little, sing a lot and enjoy our salute to Motown."
The evening's lighthearted, family-oriented atmosphere continued as Smith, Johnson, Miller, Pregozen and Beck broke out with "Stop! In the Name of Love" as their opening number, and Miller's wife and daughter joined them on stage with a routine of synchronized steps and gestures in classic Motown dance style.
Johnson and Miller traded lead vocals for the rest of the evening, starting with Miller's rendition of "My Girl," followed by Johnson's version of "My Guy." Old favorites such as "Baby Love" and "Heard It Through the Grapevine" had the audience clapping and cheering. Sometimes, especially back in the lobby, young kids and those very much older could be seen trying out a few dance steps.
"It's absolutely delightful," said Patricia Fisher of Columbia. "What a wonderful way to spend a foggy, thawing evening."
Sheri Spandau, a church member who helps with the programs, said that Columbian Lauren Haywood was the "primary moving force" for starting the coffeehouse evenings about four years ago. They are held every month or two at the Owen Brown Village Center.
Spandau said that Baltimore-area musicians from a wide assortment of genres play the coffeehouse. Proceeds benefit county charitable organizations. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for students. Children younger than 16 are admitted free.
"What I've always said to people," added Spandau, "is, 'Where else can you go on a Saturday night in this area for 12 bucks and get a concert and a free beverage and complimentary hors d'oeuvres?'"
The next coffeehouse is scheduled May 24. Information: 410-381-0097.