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Songwriter Circle highlights the song, not the scene

O'Connor's Vault provides intimate venue for bimonthly live music series
by: Submitted photo, Richard Howell: From left: Richard Moore, Beth Wood and Cal Scott perform at a recent Songwriter Circle at O'Connor's Vault.

MULTNOMAH - A bimonthly series at O'Connor's Vault is creating a mature live music experience, not only for its audience members, but for the performers as well.

The Songwriter Circle came about when singer-songwriters and old friends Cal Scott and Richard Moore approached Matt Miner, a local music presenter and promoter, about organizing a series.

Scott and Moore both attended Lewis and Clark College and played together in a band in the 1970s, building successful careers in music separately in the decades since.

Miner, who had just wrapped presenting a successful six-year series of 50 house shows, had known both performers for years.

'We all love the Songwriter Circle concept, in which songwriters take turns playing their original tunes and accompanying each other. These shows, like house concerts, tend to draw attentive audiences appreciative of the effort and artistry involved,' Miner said. 'People really listen and interact appropriately with the performers.'

Held on a bimonthly basis, their Songwriter Circle features Scott and Moore as anchors along with one guest performer.

'Some other circles are larger but make space more of an issue and reduce the number of songs each artist gets to play,' Miner said.

Many of the artists featured in their series are based in Portland but tour the country as professional musicians.

Miner said the Songwriter Circle format meshed with his own philosophy on live music - 'It's the song, not the scene.'

After the circle's first performance venue did not work out, Miner said he turned to O'Connor's on the recommendation of Scott and Moore.

'Steve Arel, who owns O'Connor's, was totally enthusiastic about the idea, refreshingly easy to work with and actually returns phone calls,' Miner said.

He said the Vault, which holds 75 people, is a comfortable room with a neighborhood setting that allows listeners an intimate live music-going experience.

'If you're a long-time fan of artists like Paul Simon, James Taylor or Joni Mitchell, you need to know that there are equally talented singer-songwriters here in Portland,' Miner said. 'You don't have to pay huge ticket prices, pay for parking and bring binoculars to enjoy their shows live. You can meet them in person and buy their CDs directly.'

This format is beneficial to the artists as well.

'Most singer-songwriters pay their dues playing in noisy bars where their role is primarily to provide background music. So they all appreciate having an intimate, attentive audience,' Miner said. 'Ours tends to be more mature than the bar crowd.'

The next Songwriter Circle will be held June 4 at 7 p.m. at O'Connor's Vault, located at 7850 S.W. Capitol Hwy. During the performance, Scott and Moore will be joined by Michael Sheridan, a Portland firefighter, originally from New York City, whose songs have been featured on the soundtracks of several network TV dramas.

'He is a wonderfully inventive songwriter with a beautiful voice,' Miner said.

Tickets are $12 in advance from brownpapertickets.com or $15 at the door.

For more information about the Songwriter Circle, visit mattminermusic.com.