When most people move into a new town, they spend their first few weeks learning the lay of the land: finding the nearest pharmacy, grocery store, dry cleaner and the like.
When Sibyl English whirled into Concord, she cruised through the streets looking for a swanky little hotspot with a good community feel around it.
“Just a little corner,” English said. “I wanted a place where I could keep my voice warm.”
The professional vocalist thinks she’s found the right vibe inside Afton Village’s The Wine Room, where she’ll perform her jazz, blues and Motown repertoire the first Friday of each month.
English, 51, has made a career out of singing. Her fire for performing was lit at age 5, when she won a talent contest by singing “I Found Love on a Two-Way Street,” by The Moments.
“Looking back, I was singing it to the hilt, like I was a grown woman,” English said, laughing. “It was all about love, and I was 5. What did I know about love? I’m sure it was very entertaining.”
She has spent the decades performing off-Broadway and touring throughout the world with big bands and orchestras. This year, regular gigs across the country will take her away from her new home in Carriage Downs once or twice a month. Three international bookings are also scheduled for 2015.
At The Wine Room, she’ll forgo the live accompaniment and use recorded tracks instead.
Her bread and butter comes from singing the old songs that ring a bell from generations past.
“My main audience is my age and above, and I mean really above,” English said.
“They can’t find Frank singing it live. They can’t find Gladys Knight or Etta James singing it live. They can’t find that music.”
English had plenty of time to build her catalog of songs. When she was growing up in Hickory with a professional-singer father and a drama-teacher mother, her home was always filled with music.
“I just got everything honest,” said English, who has had very little formal musical training.
At The Wine Room, she said, her sets will start off with smooth jazz, then move into ’50s and ’60s, easy listening and eventually Motown.
The audience will hear songs originally performed by everyone from Bing Crosby to Barbra Streisand to Aretha Franklin to The Captain & Tennille.
“They’re songs that are in your head that you haven’t heard in years, and all of a sudden you hear it, and it takes you back to when you were that age, and you were hearing that music, and what was going on in your life,” English said.
After years living abroad, English said, she was happy to return to North Carolina and a community with a slower groove.
“The pace is so what we wanted,” English said of Concord. “Just good, easy living. I love it here. It’s good to be home.”