Singer-songwriter and guitarist Michael Peter Smith will be featured in concert Wednesday, December 7, at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek.
The White Gull concert series presents touring acoustic folk musicians from all over the country in monthly performance engagements in the White Gull’s century-old dining room. Tickets for the 8 pm concert, the second in a series of six scheduled at the inn this winter, are $16.
Michael Smith was born and raised in South Orange, New Jersey, attending those Catholic schools that are later referenced in several of his songs. He bought his first guitar at age fifteen (for $5) and was soon playing in a group called The Kalypso Kids. College in Florida brought a quartet dubbed the Wanderers, with gigs on the beach and at local coffeehouses, then touring in The Talismen, a duet.
While performing at The Flick in Miami, he met Barbara Barrow, who would become his wife and they traveled with a quartet called the Baker Street Irregulars. They signed a contract with Decca under the group name Juarez, and produced one record. The couple’s next recording was called Mickey and Babs Get Hot, followed by a live, acoustic recording of an evening performance at The Raven Gallery in Detroit (where they briefly resided), called Zen.
Steve Goodman had recorded Smith’s song, “The Dutchman” and Chicagoans were discovering other of his songs. Michael and Barbara relocated to the Windy City and became regulars at venues such as The Earl of Old Town, Somebody Else’s Troubles, Holstein’s, No Exit and Orphan’s. They played the Philadelphia Folk Festival, worked with Corky Siegel and John Prine, taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and continued to record separately and together. In the late 1980’s Michael was asked to write the music for the Steppenwolf theater production of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and he toured with that production for two years, winning two Antoinette Perry awards (Tonys).
Smith began to record for Flying Fish, initially produced by Anne Hills, whom he had met when he was playing bass for Bob Gibson. He began to tour more frequently doing exclusively his own material and continued to write songs, now increasingly being recorded by other artists. He created essentially a one-man autobiographical show entitled Michael, Margaret, Pat & Kate, which played at the Victory Gardens in 1994 and garnered four Joseph Jefferson awards, Chicago’s equivalent of the Tony.
With Jamie O’Reilly, Michael created, performed and recorded Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, followed by Hello Dali (songs about art), Scarlet Confessions (with Anne Hills), and years later, a holiday CD/show collaboration of The Gift of the Magi. All enjoyed runs at various theatres. Michael self-produced an album of his songs called There in 2000 with the assistance of Pat Fleming. Then, with spouse Barbara Barrow, he created Weavermania, celebrating the works of the Weavers. A highlight of the Weavermania experience was a concert where Pete Seeger played onstage with them.
More albums followed, including Live at Dark Thirty, Such Things Are Finely Done, Just Plain Folk (recorded with John McDermott), Michael Peter Smith-Anthology One, Love Letter on a Fish and in 2008, the soundtrack to a children’s’ production he wrote and performed in called The Selfish Giant, which featured the puppet wizardry of Blair Thomas. Amidst all of that, he composed the score for a production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, in which both he and Barbara performed beginning in 2006 and enjoying additional runs in subsequent years at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, under the direction of Frank Galati.
Michael Smith continues to travel, playing concert halls house concerts, clubs and festivals, and his prolific songwriting has never waned, with now close to 500 original tunes in his catalog.
An optional pre-concert fixed price White Gull Inn holiday dinner will be served at the inn at 6 pm. The menu consists of beef tenderloin with chestnuts and peppercorns, bordelaise, fried spaetzle, crispy potato cakes, spinach salad and steamed chocolate pudding for dessert.
Future concerts scheduled in the White Gull Inn’s winter concert series include: Lou & Peter Berryman on January 11, Garnet Rogers on February 22, The Steel Wheels on March 28 and Special Consensus on April 11.
Tickets and more information on the concerts and the optional dinners can be obtained by calling the White Gull Inn at 920.868.3517 or toll free 800.624.1987, or accessing the inn’s Website, www.WhiteGullinn.com. If still available, concert tickets can be purchased at the door, although most concerts sell out, so advance ticket purchase and reservations for the pre-concert dinners are recommended.