The Freeman Stage teases us every spring about when the summer schedule will be released. In turn, we wonder who will be the stars that make their way to West Fenwick to brighten our lives. What we know is that, whether the performers are national recording artists or cover bands or actors or symphony musicians, all will provide top-notch entertainment in a variety of different styles.
This year, whether one’s taste is classical (Yo-Yo Ma), country (The Band Perry), Motown (Gladys Knight), rock (Huey Lewis & the News) or musical theater (Clear Space), there has been a treat for everyone.
What is less known is that on two nights every season, one can watch, for free, great talent representing a variety of genres in an event known as Locals Under the Lights.
The second Locals Under the Lights at the Freeman Stage this summer is on Thursday, Aug. 25, and it is going to be an amazing evening.
There will be five performances by artists who have a connection to the area. Some have been playing professionally for years, some are well on their way to making their musical presence known throughout the region, and one is already recognized internationally. For all, performing on the same stage where some of the giants of the music business have stood will be a huge thrill.
Randy Grimm, known as “RandyJamz,” started his rock ’n’ roll career just four years ago, at 60, after a lifetime in the corporate business world in Baltimore.
“I’ve always played guitar at home for my friends, just for fun. But I decided it was time to live my dream. Now, in the summer, I play six to seven gigs a week up and down the coast, and have developed a loyal following. Often I play solo, such as at 99 Sea Level, and also Burnzy’s — both in Bethany Beach. For larger venues, including the Freeman Stage, I play as a duo with Jay Vizzini. We call ourselves ‘the Baltimore Boyz,’” he said.
“I’m loving what I’m doing,” Grimm added. “I love meeting people, and I love making them happy by the music I play. Whether classic rock or ’50s music or one of my originals, it’s always fun. When I don’t have a paid gig, I play on the boardwalk in Ocean City, and any tips I get in my bucket that exceed expenses go to Wounded Warriors and other veterans’ charities. I’m living the good life.”
Grimm found out about Locals Under the Lights from his wife’s friend who regularly volunteers at the Stage and encouraged him to apply.
“I was excited to learn my application had been accepted,” said Grimm. “It will be a great night.” His website is at www.randyjamz.com
Christine Havrilla is a Philadelphia native whose home base is in Millsboro. She has more than 15 years of touring, seven studio albums and five EPs to her credit. Currently, she is spending much of her summer performing throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, either solo or with her band, Gypsy Fuzz.
“I love the summer, when there are so many outdoors shows and concerts under the stars,” said Havrilla. “I call my music neo-funkadelic-folk-pop-twang-rock! It is timeless, and you will never hear the same thing twice.”
Havrilla said she is looking forward to introducing her music to the audience at Bayside and making new fans. She plans to sing some of her crowd favorites from over the years and some from her new album, “The Old Church Sessions.” Her next show in the area, after Locals Under the Lights, will be at the Ale House in Rehoboth on Sept. 30. Her website is at www.christinehavrilla.com
Leigh Remy grew up in Ocean View, where her parents still reside. She moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. She primarily sings opera, although she has also performed in a couple of Broadway musicals. Her soprano voice has been described as “beautifully unique.”
“I’m currently in Italy at the Trentino Music Festival, coaching some new repertoire with Paul Plummer, a vocal coach from London who coaches at Covent Garden, as well as performing in a series of gala concerts,” said Remy. “I first worked here two years ago, singing Countess Almaviva in ‘Le Nozze di Figaro.’”
“Prior to that, I spent two summers with the Siena Music Festival, singing the Governess in Britten’s ‘Turn of the Screw,’ and again the Countess in ‘Figaro,’” she said. “I spent last summer in L.A. with OperaWorks, singing in an improvised opera. Recently in New York, I performed the roles of Micaela in Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ with New York Lyric Opera. In the fall of 2015, I made my Carnegie Hall debut singing Violetta in Verdi’s ‘La Traviata.’”
For Locals Under the Lights, audiences will be wowed by Remy’s performance of a collection of popular opera arias and Broadway songs.
Paul Woznicki is a dental technician in Wilmington by day, but his passion has always been music. Not only has he played professionally for years, but he is a multi-instrumental composer who has created sound for dance, film, radio, television and live performance.
“Like every Polish boy, my dad gave me an accordion when I was in the fourth grade,” said Woznicki.
The accordion he plays now is not his father’s instrument, nor is the polka his genre.
“I’m primarily a keyboard player who plays a digital accordion, which then works like a synthesizer,” he said. “It’s a very expansive instrument from which I make world music. Each piece has its own ethnicity and is a musical story, whether from a sidewalk café in Paris or a bellydance in the Middle East. I’m recognized as a jazz musician, so there’s always lots of room for improvisation in my performances.”
It was seeing this year’s Freeman Stage schedule that included Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble that inspired Woznicky to both come to that marvelous evening and to apply to play on that same stage.
In 1980, Woznicki put out a vinyl record of early synthesizer music. It’s called “Woz,” which is also, since second grade, the name he goes by. There were 2,000 initial copies made and, wondrously, those records travelled around the world, eventually creating an active internet following. Some 30 years later, he was approached by W.T. Records to reissue another 2,000 vinyl records, and now those are selling out, too.
For more information about Paul Woznicki go to www.myspace.com/delawarewoz.
The fifth act of the night, which will likely be a band, had not been announced as of Coastal Point’s publication deadline this week.
The final performances of the summer of 2016 at the Freeman Stage are getting close, and several renowned performers with ticketed shows remain. However, three free shows — all of which have become traditional local favorites — are also on the calendar.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, the First State Ballet Theatre will enchant the audience with bright young performers under the direction of Kirov-trained Pasha Kambalov.
On Sunday, Sept. 4, will be the season fireworks grand finale, with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony with the U.S. Army Blues Band — splendor all around.
Then, on Saturday, Sept. 17, is the daytime Arts & Jazz Festival — a personal favorite of mine. What can be better than sitting on a deck chair on a sunny day, listening to the best of jazz and using the intermissions to walk around looking at amazing art, chatting with the artists and maybe making a purchase or two?
“Enjoy this Stage in your life!” is the Freeman Stage motto. They have done the work; there is still time to take advantage of their effort. For more information, go to www.freemanstage.org.