MADISON — Performers who took the stage Sunday at Somerset Abbey to help raise money for a nonprofit community radio station based in Skowhegan were as eclectic as the music the station broadcasts.

There was the experimental avant garde band, Unintended Consequences, whose members — Abby Shahn, James Fangboner and Wally Warren — played brass and wind instruments with aplomb, exploring the outer limits of tonality with an original piece called “Traffic Jam.”

The band followed a performance by Merry-Go-Roundup, a country-western band. Members Annie Stillwater Gray, Andy Wendell, Cheryl Seamans and Ellie Howell belted out the tune “Miss Kitty.”

“C’mon, marshal, give Miss Kitty a Kiss!” they crooned.

Stillwater Gray and Wendell, of Solon, are general manager and program director, respectively, of 98.1 FM WXNZ, a radio station that broadcasts from Bigelow Hill in Skowhegan and that operates in the former Somerset County Jail in that town. Housed in cell block E of the former jail, the station has one operating studio and two more being developed.

More than 50 station listeners and performers turned out Sunday for the Valentine’s Day fundraiser to help pay for royalties and operating expenses for the station, which broadcasts 24 hours a day with recorded 15-minute sets created by about 15 volunteer deejays.

The music includes jazz, reggae, folk, blues and rock, with more edgy offerings such as rap aired after 9 p.m., according to Stillwater Gray.

“We’re up and running and we’re on the air, and it sounds good,” she said before Sunday’s show. “It sounds good because the people doing the music love their music.”

The basement of Somerset Abbey, a former church on Main Street in Madison, was decked out in Valentine’s Day decor. Roses, chocolate, heart-shaped lollipops and red candy graced the guest tables. Tiny white lights glistened from the ceiling beams. Sweets and pizza were offered for a donation, and a variety of drinks were available. Community sponsors including Boynton’s Greenhouses, Pizza Hut, Subway, Maja’s Body Art and Kel-Mat Cafe donated flowers, pizza, gift cards and gift certificates; and Mountain Mama donated a gift basket, according to Duane Bruce, a deejay for WXNZ who was helping at Sunday’s event.

Stillwater Gray, who has volunteered for 32 years at the Colby College radio station in Waterville, said operating a station is not cheap. The all-volunteer Skowhegan station, also known as Hooskow Radio, needs the community’s support.

“It’s people from the community creating sets of music that they know about and love,” she said.

Annual royalty fees must be paid to The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music Inc.; and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers for people who write the music, she said.

“We have an Internet bill because we’re still trying to get a signal from the tower to the studio, and we have equipment costs,” she said.

Station volunteers would love to have broadcast-quality reel-to-reels and turntables, according to Stillwater Gray.

“Right now, all we have is a CD player,” she said.

Listeners tune in to the station from a territory spanning from Fairfield Center to Solon and Mercer to Canaan, according to Stillwater Gray. The station, which is licensed to the Wesserunsett Arts Council, might offer live broadcasts in the future for special events.

“We’re consciously putting a signal out to underserved areas, and we have a low-power license,” Stillwater Gray said.

Mark Wallace, of Anson, attended the fundraiser to help out the station, which he described as “unbelievably good.”

“The mixture of music is great, and there will be a piano blues song followed by an old-timey song by Hank Williams, and then some satiric singer-songwriter music,” said Wallace, who teaches composition, public speaking and Shakespeare at Thomas College in Waterville. David Staber, of Norridgewock, attended the fundraiser not only to benefit the station, but also to perform. He played an old Swedish dance tune on his fiddle, as well as a tune he wrote called “Maple Sugar Time.” He also sang lyrics to that original song.

Staber, who attended with his wife, Deborah, said there’s a lot of work to be done with a new radio station.

“It’s a beginning,” he said. “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step, and they’ve taken that step.”

He said it is nice to have an alternative radio station in the community that can promote the community and businesses within it.

“Maybe it’s a new opportunity for young musicians to get exposure,” he said. “I enjoy tuning in when I’m driving in the car anywhere.”

Staber, who also performs on the second Saturday of each month at the Rushin Turtle Coffeehouse in Skowhegan, said he also liked the idea of having an open mic fundraiser so people could perform.

“I’m not a professional musician and don’t get the opportunity to play a lot,” he said. “I especially like the open mic concept. It gives musicians a chance to perform in public. If you do something alternative — write your own music, or write in a musical genre that is not the norm, the places to play are few and far between.”

Howell, the singer from Solon who performed with Merry-Go-Roundup, also plays in a two-person band with John Newsom, of Starks. On Sunday, they performed “Colorado,” a song Newsom wrote, as well as “Blue Blue,” a song written by Howell’s friend Larry Heald, of Anson.

The radio station studios are on the first floor of the former jail, which also houses the Somerset Grist Mill and other businesses, including the Pickup Cafe.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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