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Listening Rooms offer intimate concert experience

Musician Emily Mure
Jeff Fasano
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Emily Mure

This summer, the Finger Lakes music scene has been about as active as it’s ever been since the start of the pandemic. The Grassroots Festival returned to full strength in Trumansburg. The region’s wineries, distilleries, and breweries offer opportunities for musicians of all kinds to perform to audiences outside.

Jefferson Hamer and Naomi Sommers perform for Big aLICe Brewing FLX Listening Series
Emily Mure
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Jefferson Hamer and Naomi Sommers perform for Big aLICe Brewing FLX Listening Series

Big aLICe Brewing opened a Finger Lakes location south of Geneva in the spring of 2021. The brewery has featured live music since its opening, but in recent months it’s featured a Listening Room series. It’s a series that Emily Mure, who books the music, hopes will offer something different from what one might otherwise expect from music in a bar.

“You can expect a quieter musical experience in general. The expectation is that the music itself is not necessarily background music, but meant to be appreciated or experienced in a more mindful way and really just actively listening. So, we put seats out for people facing the stage. The musicians we have are songwriters, so they are primarily, though they do throw in a couple covers here and there, it’s mostly the performers performing their own songs.”

Listening Room series are nothing new, especially in the world of singer songwriters. You can find them in a variety of non-conventional concert venues from living rooms to backyards to churches.

Mure is a musician herself. She’s originally from New York City, but studied classical oboe at Ithaca College and has performed and recorded as a singer songwriter for years. The appeal of a Listening Room isn’t only for the audience enjoying the music, but for the performer as well. With the attention on the music rather than socializing, there’s a chance to make a personal connection.

“I’m writing these songs. They’re so personal. I often, when I write them trick myself into thinking, oh, I’m not going to share this so I can just write this and it will be this experience, but I’m not going to share this one because no one will relate to this. No one will possibly relate to this very specific thing I’m writing about. And then you play this song and it’s amazing what people can relate to even if it’s not that exact experience, they find their own personal experience that they can relate to through this song and it’s an incredible...it’s just so fulfilling as a writer to know that these songs are resonating with other people other than you and your cat, you know?”

Mure is planning to bring her own music to listeners other than her cat this month. Local events venue The Cracker Factory has been programming listening room shows since before the pandemic. Mure is performing there next week and the show is going to be a significant one for her.

Musician Emily Mure
Jeff Fasano
/
Emily Mure

“I am so excited to be playing again. The last show I played...the last full set show I played was March 3, 2020 in New York City in a wonderful listening series actually at a bar called The Scratcher in downtown Manhattan. It was an amazing show and it was so fun. My health, unfortunately, I got COVID and have been dealing with long COVID for two-and-a-half years now. Of course, there was a year when none of us were really performing and a lot of us still are easing our way back in even without any personal illness. But, it feels a little triumphant for me because there was a long stretch in 2020 and into 2021 where I was not sure how much performing I would be doing because some of my physical limitations that I was dealing with.”

Emily Mure performs at The Cracker Factory on Thursday, August 25. Dave Drago will be providing harmony vocals. Jon Lewis opens the show, which begins at 7.

The next Listening Series concert at Big aLICe Brewing is Thursday, August 18. Todd Lewis Kramer performs beginning at 7.

Kelly Walker started his public radio career at WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1985 and has spent some time in just about every role public broadcasting has to offer. He has spent substantive time in programming and development at KWMU in St. Louis, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, and Troy Public Radio in Alabama before his arrival in Geneva, New York. In addition, his work has been heard on many other public radio stations as well as NPR. Kelly also produces The Sundilla Radio Hour, which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on Finger Lakes Public Radio and is distributed to public radio stations all over the country through PRX.