At the Dover Town Hall, Locals Sing, Strum and Find Harmony
October 19, 2022
Gary Keiser loves music. The Williamsville resident has been playing music for over 40 years, performing in local bygone bands such as Morning Sun and White Noise. Recently, Keiser has become a regular at Dover Open Mic Night at the Dover Town Hall.
On a September evening, he played guitar and sang with his wife, Melanie—who’s only performed in public a couple of times. The duo sang a handful of songs, including Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light” and Mimi and Richard Farina’s “Pack Up Your Sorrows,” in front of more than a dozen Deerfield Valley residents.
“Dover Open Mic Night is easygoing, and there’s no judgment going on,” Gary Keiser says in an interview after the show. He points out that most participants typically only play in the privacy of their own homes and not in public. “The music is coming from their heart. You can see they are up there performing because they love music.”
-Gary and Melanie Keiser of Williamsville perform. / Main image: Logan Boyd plays with his father, D.J. Boyd.
Open Mic Night, held twice a month, was started in 2018 by East Dover resident Linda Sherman. A singer, songwriter, and guitar player, Sherman has been passionate about music since childhood. She’s long dreamt of creating a performance space in the community.
“I get peace of mind knowing that I’m doing something good for the community,” says Sherman, who works as the Dover town assessor and runs a side business making hooked rugs. “Music has been a huge part of my life, and to be able to continue that…it’s something I totally love.”
Dover Open Mic Night at the Town Hall
The Dover Town Hall was built in 1828 and initially served as a union meeting house for Baptist, Methodist, and Universalist congregations. The building, now listed on the National Register for Historic Places, has been the town hall since 1875. (It even survived a 1907 attempt to be demolished.)
The building is an ideal setting for Dover Open Mic Night. The space is warm and inviting with high ceilings, hardwood floors, chandeliers, and large windows. And with no stage, the connection between performers and the audience feels particularly engaging.
-John Wheeler of Wilmington performs in the town hall, playing songs by well-known artists as well as his own music.
“People are so encouraging, and that’s what I love about it,” Sherman says. “It’s important to have a place where (you) can share what you’ve taken from your heart. I think it’s a good venue for that.”
A Supportive, ‘Potluck’ Environment
-Sam Griffis sings and plays rock tunes in the town hall.
The Keisers seldom perform together at Dover Open Mic Night. Most weeks, Gary Keiser sings and plays solo, which he admits makes him slightly uneasy.
“I enjoy watching people more than playing up there by myself. I’m always a little nervous, a little reluctant,” he says. “I haven’t played by myself until I started at Dover Open Mic Night because I’ve always been with a band. So that part of it I’m still getting used to.”
But to an observer watching him perform, Gary Keiser’s nervousness is undetectable. And Melanie Keiser, a beginner, looks at ease singing next to her husband.
“It’s a safe space…it’s fun and exhilarating,” she says. “I like being entertained, and I find that watching people perform here is kind of like a potluck. Some bring their staple, like mac and cheese, and others try a new recipe, maybe something they made up to see if it works.”
-Dover Open Mic Night is open to the public for free. It’s held on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 6-8 p.m. at the Dover Town Hall.
-Linda Sherman gets ready to perform a song by Michelle Shocked.
Happy Vermont Podcast: Creating Harmony at Dover Open Mic Night
In this episode of Happy Vermont, Linda Sherman talks about her lifelong passion for music, why she started Dover Open Mic Night, and the importance of performing in a safe, supportive space.