Paul Johnson is a man of many talents—baker, gardener, builder, theatre director, opera singer, to name just a few.
He is also the host of an annual community potluck that draws a huge crowd from Jay and outlying towns.
This year, the celebration is bittersweet, as Paul receives kudos for rebuilding the barn after tropical storm Irene tore through the hamlet of Upper Jay, destroying the antique business housed in the red barn and eating away his roadside bakery.
This year has also attracted some of the best local talent as barn bash entertainment. I arrive to the set led by Bluegrass Julie Robinson-Robards backed up by Don Vacaro and Russ Mulvey. Julie acts as MC for the event and introduces host Paul Johnson as the Opera Singing Baker.
Paul returned to the Adirondacks some time ago having successfully completed his music training at the New England Conservatory. When I first moved to Jay, more than 20 years ago, Paul was the director of the AuSable Valley Players musicals as well as a master gardener. He was my directing mentor and, for a while, my voice teacher.
He built Paul's Bakery himself and renovated the outbuildings on the family property in Upper Jay.
It is a treat to hear Paul sing but he is so busy that this has become a rare treat. Today is one of the few occasions that such a large audience will have the honor. Paul has selected a piece from "The Merry Widow." He receives a standing ovation and a request for an encore which he delivers as a Happy Birthday tribute to his mother, Ruth, who is present at the event.
Paul turns the entertainment back over to Julie who introduces Upper Jay's own singing post mistress, Wendy Block, who has been featured at the Amos & Julia Ward Theatre in Jay.
Next up is Darryl "Dutch" Stout and the JEMS (Jay Entertainment & Music Society) Acoustic Club.
Members of the audience are talented artists themselves, ceramic artist Sue Burdick-Young and visual artist Terrance D. Young, textile artist Barbara Smith, musicians Bill Stokes and Karen Rappaport, producer/director Scott Renderer (Upper Jay Arts Center), photograher Stephen Longware, and so many more.
There may be more entertainment in store this summer at The Barn in Upper Jay, stay tuned. In the meantime, the JEMS-Acoustic Club meets Thursdays at 7 PM. Any and all instruments, including voice are invited at the Amos and Julia Ward Theatre at the junction of Routes 9N and 86 in Jay. And, check out the JEMS web site for free summer entertainment on Saturday evenings on the Jay Village Green.
See our Events Calendar for more arts events in the Whiteface Region.
Kathleen Recchia has been enjoying the arts in the Adirondacks for about 20 years—both as observer and participant (acting, directing, and producing). She also enjoys cross-country skiing, swimming, juggling, and hosting visitors to the area at her bed & breakfast in Jay.