KEARNEY — Karen Lee and Kate Fly know all about the magic of Concerts in the Park at Harmon Park.
“The special thing about playing that venue is that we began there more than 30-plus years ago,” said Lee. “It was just the two of us then. We played there through the years as a band and now we’re back, just the two of us again.”
Known as the OK Sisters, Lee and Fly will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Sonotorium in Harmon Park as part of the Concerts in the Park, presented by Kearney Area Arts Council. Admission to the show is free.
“Harmon is just a beautiful setting,” Lee said. “The thing about Harmon Park is that you get a wide variety of clientele. It’s not like people at a bar. People love it when they can come and just put their lawn chairs out or put down the blankets and let their kids play and run and dance.”
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She described the concert as more of a festival than just a typical gig, complete with food trucks and concessions.
“And we love the sound there,” Lee said. “We love being there.”
The OK Sisters will perform mostly as an acoustic duo, with the help of Martin Tilley on harmonica and Joel Fought on bass.
“He knows our stuff,” Lee said. “Some of our songs require his techniques that he uses. Some of our stuff is lyrical and that’s one thing about Joel, his bass playing is very lyrical and it just fits our style.”
After three decades of performing, Lee and Fly have hundreds of friends in the community.
“When they come up to the stage afterwards, it’s hard to tear down our equipment because we want to stop and talk to them,” Lee said. “We love that. We go to the edge of the stage and visit with the kids. And sometimes they want our autographs. It’s just kinda fun. It’s like a big ol’ family reunion.”
On stage, Lee worries little about making the songs sound just perfect, just like the record.
“We don’t like to replicate the sound because we go for the feeling,” she said. “Kate and I have done songs for so many years that sometimes it warrants to have a little change in there. Kate may do a lead in, and it’s different every time. I love it, every time.”
Lee calls it “making magic” on stage with the music.
“We always try to find the magic for that day, for that night, and be true to the music,” she said. “We want to send the message out to the listeners. If maybe just a handful are enjoying it, we’ve done our part. We want to feel that magic on stage, but we want the audience to feel it as well. That’s our goal, for the love of music.”
When the duo first started, they didn’t know to look for that magic.
“It never used to be that way,” Lee noted. “But now we’re veterans and we’re seasoned and we can get away with that.”
One of the most important skills Lee acquired during the years is listening.
“Listening is the biggest thing,” she said. “Listen to the people on stage, no matter who you hire to come on stage with you, it’s the fact of listening to what other people are doing. Sometimes there are changes in the music and if everybody is looking and listening, you got it in the pocket.”
That extends to listening to the audience.
“It’s more like we watch them during the performance and how they are digging it,” Lee said. “I guess it’s body language. That’s a listening/watching thing, too. One of the things we’ve learned is that when the audience sees that we’re having a good time and having our own little party on stage, they are going to join in. And they usually do.”
Lee makes a point of communicating with the audience.
“We don’t just stand up there and play,” she said. “We talk to them. We want them to be a part of what we’re doing.”