Steve, left, and his brother Chuck Romanoff of Schooner Fare. Chuck Morse photo

Nostalgia was experienced in full force when I called Portland on the 10th of this month. I had not chatted with the recipient of the phoner for more years than either of us could remember, but seeing Schooner Fare, made up of brothers Steve and Chuck Romanoff, was going to be gracing the stage at the Chocolate Church on Dec. 1, it was only right to reconnect with Steve Romanoff once again. The singer-songwriter-guitarist, who also is a retired college professor and author, was more than happy to reminisce about how his band’s history and that of Bath’s premiere performance venue are intertwined. Our chat was more than an hour long but, sadly, the tape I was using only recorded 47 minutes of the conversation.  I’ve gleaned through it and put together the following column for your reading pleasure.

Q:  When we were setting up this interview you mentioned something about how Schooner Fare’s career and the Chocolate Church are intertwined. Could you elaborate on that?
We’re entering our 49th year. We started in 1975, and in 1977, I think, we did our first show at the Chocolate Church. It has just opened as a music venue … it had a flat floor with a lot of wooden pews, there was no sound system and we just stood on the stage and sang our (butts) off to try to reach the back row. So we had no sound system and everybody sat, cheek-to-jowl, in hard, old wooden church pews.

Q:  It does sound less than ideal but it must have allowed you to hone your craft quite a bit.
Romanoff: We were able to do concerts because we had been trying to do an actual show: in all the pubs and bars we were playing we would crank out one song after another. Now, we were trying to do an act and the Chocolate Church was one of the first places that gave us the opportunity to do that in that context.

Q:  You also mentioned, when we were setting this up, that you’ve done a show there every year except for COVID?
Romanoff: Yeah, the year before last we had to cancel because of COVID, so that was the only break in the whole chain.

Q:  So what’s the number of shows there counting this upcoming one on Dec. 1?
Romanoff: I’m going to guess that it’s like the 46th … and we’ve been there pretty much since Day 1 when they decided to make it into a performance venue. We’ve worked with well over a dozen directors, from the first director to the current one, and they’ve all been great. Over the years we’ve made a lot of friends at the Chocolate Church, both through their staff and of course people who would come in to see us … we became a regular function.

Q:  With 15 albums under your collective belts, are you still writing and recording new material?
Romanoff: We’re not recording anymore. I’m still doing a little writing but I’m not prolific, my songs come in stits and farts, as we say …


Q:  (Laughter) I’ve never heard that twist before, I love it…thanks! Now, about your performance schedule nowadays, what’s that like?
Romanoff: Well, we were doing upwards to 180 shows a year back in the 80s, but we were also all over North America, up and down the East Coast from Halifax to Orlando, L.A., to Seattle, all across Canada and then all around the Midwest, you had to find the work.

Q:  What are you doing now?
Romanoff: Well, Chuck and I do about 10 shows a year, and we don’t travel extensively anymore, we’re all done getting on airplanes; we used to live in airports. We did our last major trip a year ago in September: we did a Schooner Fare trip to Ireland, it was our third trip there, which are always fun, but we rarely even go outside of Maine now.

Q:  If my memory is correct, your band started out as a trio, right?
Romanoff: Yeah, we were a trio for 28 years and then we lost our dear friend, Tom Rowe, 20 years ago and that’s what adds up to 48 years for us. Of course, Chuck and I were always brothers so we always sang together from the time we were little — that’s always been the glue.

Q:  Now, the material you can draw from for your performances, does it grow by finding new things to add to that catalog?
Romanoff: Not intentionally, no. I published a songbook back in 1999 and then I published a second songbook about eight years later. I had a real motivation to write those songs — I felt like I was writing them for Schooner Fare and when we lost Tom, and because we were not performing as much, the impetus to be more productive on that end wasn’t there.

Q:  I was wondering, for those readers who may have heard of you but haven’t heard you, how would you describe to them what they can expect from your show?
Romanoff: Well, we were described by New York’s Lincoln Center as the premier performing group of original and traditional songs. I’ve been able to use that on our press release for some time. We’ve been blessed to be able to do this as long as we have. We’ve made a lot of friends. We used to play all over the state all the time but not so much now.

Q:  Well, Steve, here’s my traditional closing question:  Is there anything that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Romanoff: The Chocolate Church is absolutely one of our very favorite places to play in North America, and we’ve had the pleasure of playing Lincoln Center, and Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops, and Wolf Trap in Washington, D.C., and major amphitheaters in Detroit and all over. And coming back to the Chocolate Church is literally like coming home because there’s a natural warmth to the space and to the people. It’s like sitting around in a living room and singing songs and sharing stories with friends — it’s something we always look forward to. It’s very high on the list of things that we totally enjoy because of everything that’s associated with it: it’s Bath, it’s the heritage, it’s the people — it’s that funky old wooden church that is now renowned because so many world-class performers have been on that stage and made it into a destination venue that people go out of their way to get booked in. And it’s pretty cool because we were there from Day 1.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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