By Jesse Wood
Jan. 13, 2015. Maureen Renihan, 39, didn’t intend to become a jazz singer. But with a voice reminiscent of Billie Holiday and affection for jazz standards, it’s no surprise that Renihan has found success in that genre.
A natural talent since she’s been a kid, Renihan has always had the voice. She can remember being in grade school before it was her time to sing in class and thinking, “This is how it’s done.”
A Pittsburgh native and a stay-at-home mom of two, Renihan moved to Boone from Florida in 2006 to raise a family in the mountains. With a background in acting, particularly musicals, she eventually found Ensemble Stage and performed in Christmas shows. Someone heard her voice and asked Renihan to sub as the lead singer for a big band, which is associated with jazz and the Swing Era.
“I sort of fell into it. I didn’t try to get into jazz, but I always liked the jazz standards and had to learn a lot from scratch,” Renihan said.
She also performed in a sort of open-mic fashion, at Crippen’s Restaurant in Blowing Rock before it closed down two years ago. Each week, musicians would gather in the parlor of the restaurant and anybody who wanted to sing could come up and perform. She was a regular.
Eventually, her work with jazz bands, she said, “gave me footing to do my own thing.” In 2014, she was encouraged to pursue her own musical endeavors and go out on her own, so to speak. She said she initially thought, “I guess I could do it.”
“And I had the nerve to go out and send people samples. They took a chance on me and so far things are going well,” Renihan said. “I am developing a job out of it.”
Renihan noted that she’s still developing her craft and has been fortunate to work with and learn from some talented and knowledgeable musicians.
Her repertoire spans from upbeat swing and slow dance ballads to Bossa nova (latin) and pop music such as The Beatles, Norah Jones and Elvis. Some tunes in the repertoire include classics such as “Summertime,” “My Funny Valentine,” “A Gentle Rain,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “East of the Sun,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” “It Might as Well be Spring” and so forth. See additional songs in potential set lists here.
While work with the jazz bands tended to dry up in the winter as the summer residents migrated to Florida, she had made enough connections in the local music scene to book her own shows and bring in additional musicians as the budget dictated.
“I’ve found a niche over at Chetola,” Renihan said. “They really like it as music for dinner guests and afterwards, they’ll come out to the bar and listen and sit in the lounge and relax there. [Indoors at Chetola Resort] is really cozy in the winter, and in the summertime by the lake, I play out there. It’s just a really nice setting for music.”
She has an upcoming show on Friday, Jan. 16, at Timberlake Restaurant at Chetola Resort for Friday night jazz. Joining her are Andy Page on guitar and Ben McPherron on bass. The music takes place from 6 to 9 p.m.
She also has two upcoming shows at Lost Province Brewing Company, another of the local establishments that Renihan said has “brought” her in. She’ll perform with Page and Nathan Hefner on piano on Saturday, Jan. 17, from 8 to 11 p.m. in the local brewery. On Valentine’s Day, she’ll perform with Gary Schwarts on piano and McPherron on bass from 8 to 11 p.m.
In addition, she’s performed quite a bit at the local wineries around the High Country during warmer weather and has played in Morganton, Hickory, Granite Falls and Avery County. She’s also looking to expand into weddings. She’s a “proud member” of ACES Event Specialist, and she’ll be at the High Country Wedding Expo in the Boone Mall on Feb. 22.
Renihan’s music, available as a duo or larger band, is suitable for dining establishments, country clubs, wineries, private parties, weddings, rehearsal dinners and more.
For more information, click to www.maureenrenihanmusic.com or call 828-406-4264.