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Final open mic night at Historic Harmony barn is a hit

Teresa and Mark Berfelt, of Chippewa, prepare for their set before going on stage at the Historic Harmony barn Open Mic on May 21. Zach Petroff/Butler Eagle

JACKSON TWP — The melody from Tim Workley’s guitar floated inside the Historic Harmony barn as the crowd joined him during his cover of the Mamas and the Papas “California Dreaming.”

While not originally designed for musical acts, the historic landmark has been the ideal spot for musicians to come and perform in front of an engaged audience, Workley said on May 21 as the Historic Harmony barn on Mercer Road hosted its final open mic night.

“This is such a cool venue here at this barn,” the Ellwood City man said. “It’s a preserved building to the Harmony community, and everything sounds really good in here because of this wood.”

More than 12 acts performed up to three songs each to a packed barn. Organizers Curt Crocker, of New Brighton, and Mark Kitzki, of Zelienople, started the open mic event last year as a way to showcase local talent and raise proceeds to support the historic landmark.

As for why the barn will not be hosting anymore open mic nights, Crocker said the open mic night had received some noise complaints from neighbors.

“We thought we addressed all the issues but (Historic Harmony Inc.) don’t want to disrupt the neighborhood,” he said.

Kathy Luek, president and CEO of Historic Harmony Inc., the nonprofit in charge of renting the barn said she had “no comment” as to why the historic barn would no longer host the fan favorite Acoustic Open Mic night.

Crocker, who also is in charge of the technical aspect of the show, said musicians loved coming to play because of the natural sound provided by the historic structure.

“I like this barn — the music in here has always been incredible,” he said. “It is a neat place.”

He said he’s been volunteering for the Harmony Historical Society for 15 years, working almost every major event and countless side projects.

Singer songwriter Nolan Aleprete, of Zelienople has performed multiple times at the barn and said the venue was one of better ones at which he’s performed.

“The music sounds really good here,” said Aleprete, who goes by the stage name Nolan Michael. “I’ve played a couple different places, and I can always hear myself here. Everything always sounds great, my guitar always sounds good, and I’m never fighting a microphone or a speaker. It’s always great sound quality.

According to the Harmony Museum, The Harmonist Society built the stone foundation of the barn in 1805, as part of a sheep shed for its growing flock.

The barn was enlarged in the mid-1800s by David Ziegler and in 1999, the Harmony Museum purchased the property, preserving one of the oldest barns west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Crocker and Kitzki started hosting the open mic concert on a monthly basis last summer. The pair said they will miss having the venue.

“Were just going to try to make a really incredible event tonight and hopefully something comes up in the future,” Crocker said on Tuesday.

The musical acts during the evening covered a wide variety of genres. From bluegrass and folk to original indie-pop, there appeared to be something to satisfy everyone’s musical taste.

Teresa Bergfelt and her husband, Mark, are a musical duo out of Chippewa who have performed a number of times at the barn’s open mic. Teresa said she was sad that this will be the couple’s final performance at the venue.

“It’s been a great, fun time,” she said. “When there’s an open mic at the Harmony barn, everyone goes to the Harmony barn.”

Teresa said not only did the structure of the barn help with acoustics, but the ambiance made the establishment a great place to jam out.

“People come here to hear you play,” Teresa said. “Lot of times you play in a bar, and you hear people talking and they’re not paying attention. But here, people play attention. It’s really been great and everybody’s friendly and everybody’s accepting.”

Betsy Fleisher, of Pittsburgh said she found the concert to be a perfect opportunity for newer local musicians to get some stage time.

“This kind of thing just brings people together,” McGrain said. “It allows musicians to play their music, and maybe if they’re a little unsure of themselves they can come out here to a friendly environment.”

Singer-songwriter Nolan Aleprete performs an original song “Bruce Springsteen” at the Historic Harmony Barn on May 21. Zach Petroff/Butler Eagle
Curt Crocker is one of the organizers and sound technicians for the Historic Harmony Barn Open Mic. Zach Petroff/Butler Eagle
Tim Workley is joined by Donnie Clark to perform for the final open mic at the Historic Harmony Barn on May 21. Zach Petroff/Butler Eagle
Vinnie Palese, of Slippery Rock tunes his guitar before taking the stage at the Historic Harmony Barn on May 21. Zach Petroff/Butler Eagle
Dave and Tammy Wright, a husband-wife duo, perform at the Historic Harmony Barn Open Mic on May 21. Zach Petroff/Butler Eagle

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