Circle of Friends’ mission is simple: to bring music home.
Whether that means to put on a concert at a local business, or more literally, in someone’s home living room, it's all the same.
“We decided to bring music into the community,” said Circle of Friends co-founder Geneva DiTaranto.
DiTaranto, along with Kathy Simon and Dan Getman, run Circle of Friends, a group that organizes and promotes local and house concerts featuring artists in genres ranging from singer/songwriter, to jazz, pop, folk and more.
The group started in 2009 with its first show at a home in Riverton.
“What a great idea, we thought,” DiTaranto said when she found out about the idea from Jonathan Clifton, who put on a show at a church in Palmyra. “We don’t have to go into the city, pay for parking or stay out late.”
For the last three years, nearly every month, Circle of Friends has hosted a show at either a local business, somebody’s living room, or this Saturday, at one of their biggest venues yet—a church.
On Saturday, Circle of Friends presents South African-born Andrew Lipke, who is now based out of Philadelphia. Lipke, who released his fourth album last year, will play in the sanctuary of the Christ Episcopal Church on Fourth and Main streets in Riverton.
Lipke, along with the Azrael String Quartet, will be performing Siddiqah—his 2012 EP that Lipke calls a “murder ballad”—for the first time. He will also be performing songs from The Plague, his 2011 record.
“There are amazing acoustics,” Simon said of the venue, “and he has that amazing soaring voice.”
The venue fit the voice this time around, but both Simon and DiTaranto said that might be Circle of Friends’ biggest challenge.
“We want to find new, unique venues,” DiTaranto said, “connecting the right artist with the right venue.”
Sometimes, it’s a living room of a historic Riverton home or sometimes it’s getting local businesses involved like holding a music and art show at Muse Tattoo and Fine Art Gallery in Palmyra.
Circle of Friends sponsored dinner and a concert by Beaucoup Blue this summer at Zena’s Patisserie in Riverton.
“It’s also a way for musicians to make money and get their music heard,” Simon said. “It’s an intimate setting with people paying attention to the artist.”
There’s been no shortage of artists since Circle of Friends started; those who play spread the word around to other artists. There’s also a core group from Riverton and Palmyra who attend most of the shows and help spread the word.
“We’re bringing new things to our neighbors and to our friends,” Simon said. “We also draw different audiences and artists bring their audiences with them.”
DiTaranto said they are a “very tight crowd.”
“Part of coming to our events is seeing your friends and neighbors,” she said. “We have a party afterward, too.”
Audience members bring food and drinks and concert-goers can mingle and talk to the artist after the show.
“I love live music,” DiTaranto said of why she’s involved with Circle of Friends. “You don’t have to stop going out [as you get older], it just becomes less convenient. But the power of live music—when you see people come in and they had a bad day, they sit down and see a live performance, they feel so much better. It’s the healing power of music and bringing people together for the experience.”
Simons calls it a positive thing for the community.
“It has a communal aspect,” she said. “It brings people together in ways they don’t expect. It makes them happy and it makes the musicians really happy.”
Both Simon, who works in retail and in gardening, and DiTaranto, who works as a contractor, said they love organizing and putting on events.
“We’re always looking for something new and interesting,” Simon said.
The group plans everything from booking the artist, to setting up the venue and cleaning up afterward. And they’ve learned some things along the way—perhaps some things most take for granted.
“The first thing we learned,” DiTaranto said laughing, “is when the sun goes down, it gets dark outside.”
When they first started, she admitted, there wasn’t proper lighting for outdoor events or backup plans for inclement weather.
But the group has come a long way. Booking Andrew Lipke is a testament of that. Lipke is a critically acclaimed singer who performs with his band The Prospects and also plays in a Led Zeppelin tribute band, Get the Led Out—a group that travels around the country.
He’s also involved with sound design and has written original music for regional theater productions.
The two women met Lipke for the first time at a show of his and asked him about performing for Circle of Friends.
“He was so enthusiastic and so nice about it,” Simon said. “He’s really all about promoting music.”
His venue this Saturday, the Christ Episcopal Church, holds about 300 people. There are still tickets available for the event.
“[Circle of Friends] is growing at a steady rate,” DiTaranto said. “We believe in maintaining the consistency and quality of what we provide.”
Some artists that Circle of Friends have worked with include: Mark Silver and the Stonethrowers, Dante Bucci, the Baird Sisters, Ray Naylor and more. Next month, returning artist Lili Añel, a jazz and folk songwriter, will perform.
“We want an artist who can engage an audience,” Simon said. “It can be boring for people to just sit and listen.”
“We really love what we’re doing or else we wouldn’t be doing it for this long,” DiTaranto said. “We’ve gotten to meet a lot of great artists and that’s fun for us, as well as connecting to the community.”
To learn more about Circle of Friends or to get tickets to see Lipke Saturday, contact Circle of Friends through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call DiTaranto at 609-314-6802 or visit the ticket page.