Ingy’s is alive with the sound of music

With songs folks have sung for a thousand years

Ingy’s fills my heart with the sound of music

My heart wants to sing every song it hears.

(with apologies to Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Hammerstein)

Do you like karaoke, but don’t want a microphone or a spotlight in your face?

Do you simply enjoy singing with other folks who enjoy singing?

Do you like show tunes? I mean, really like show tunes? It will help if you like show tunes.

If so, Ingy’s Piano Bar at Tear-EZ is your kind of place.

Tear-EZ is a downtown staple, serving up drinks, some food and a friendly, relaxed environment as one of the few gay bars in Akron that caters to a wide variety of ages and bar-goers.

About a year ago, Tear-EZ purchased the spot next door (formerly Club Amsterdam and a few other formerlies) and wanted a little something extra to help fill the new space. Enter Deborah “Ingy” Ingersoll, a local musician who has run a live piano karaoke night for nearly 20 years in various area venues, including the old Adams Street Bar. She now has a new home on Sunday evenings beginning at 6 p.m.

Tear-EZ is small, intimate and clean, with a nice-sized bar and some space for the drag queens who frequently perform there. Go through a side door (Ingy’s also has its own street entrance, but you might as well absorb the full Tear-EZ multiplex experience), and you’re in the piano bar.

Well lit and painted a friendly shade of blue, Ingy’s floor plan is pretty simple. There is an old “Hollywood Heat” pinball machine next to a few high tables and chairs on one side of the room, and the lengthy bar on the other side. Go a few steps deeper, and you will see the old-school upright piano, where chances are Ingy herself will be playing and singing, surrounded by a bunch of other folks singing.

There’s no stage, no emcee/DJ announcing your name and song choice while searching through his laptop for your backing track, no mirror balls or seizure-inducing strobe lights overhead, no digital screens scrolling lyrics with bouncing balls hovering above them, and no spittle-sprayed, phlegm-flecked microphones amplifying all the drunken warbling. It’s just a bunch of folks gathered around a piano singing … freely.

While some of the patrons have been following Ingy around for years, Ezra Keeton has only recently become a regular, driving to downtown Akron from his home in East Sparta on his only guaranteed day off of the week.

“You go to a bar and it’s always a high-pressure environment. It’s dark, loud music is playing and maybe there’s some funny smells in the air. You come in here and everybody is here for the same reason. They’re here because they love music, they want to hear the music and they want to sing,” he said.

Keeton found Ingy’s through a friend’s posting of a video on Facebook, and the laid-back atmosphere and chance to sing music he loves inspired him to make the half-hour drive to Akron.

“When you go to a bar normally, at least in the gay bars, there’s always a sexual tone. And you come here — not that you couldn’t meet someone here — but because we’re all here for music, I think it helps you humanize people and be humanized yourself,” Keeton said. “This for me, coming in here is like my tribe. Finding people who love this and enjoy this puts me at ease when I come in here.”

The eye of this friendly, melodic hurricane is Ingy herself, who when not playing and singing (which she does for the bulk of the evening) will introduce herself to you and probably ask if she can give you a hug.

My professional advice: Take the hug … it’s as genuine as her soft, kind eyes and warm, welcoming smile.

Ingy strives for an environment of unconditional acceptance and encouragement, and most song choices become sing-alongs anyway, so it’s OK if you’re a little flat, sharp or both. If you want to sing, just sing like you mean it, baby, and you’ll be appreciated.

Don’t want to sing? That’s cool, too. There’s a full bar with reasonably priced mixed drinks and a decent if not exciting beer cooler, with more choices and appetizers available next door at Tear-EZ.

Live Piano Karaoke works like this: There are scores of scores available. In the back of the room are three full-sized cafeteria tables stacked deep with songbooks donated by past and present singers. Name a beloved Broadway show, and it’s likely somewhere in the stack. Heck, even less-beloved shows such as Lestat and Bonnie & Clyde are in there as well.

You’ll find compilations of famous songwriters like Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber, pop classics such as Elton John and Emmylou Harris, and many collections of hits from the ’60s through the early 2000s. Singers peruse the books, pick a song and place the book, open to the appropriate page, in a stack next to the piano. Ingy pulls the next tune from the bottom of the stack.

Several of Ingy’s regulars are or were high school/college/community theater and/or choir kids, so yeah, many, many show tunes. In the several hours I spent there drinking and (mostly) listening, we hit highlights from Les Misérables, Cabaret, Chicago, Kinky Boots and Godspell, along with pop and movie tunes including the Eagles’ Desperado, a rather dramatic mostly solo rendition of Man or Muppet from The Muppets film, and a bar-wide version of The Rose in pleasantly sturdy, multi-part harmony (why yes, that was me singing bass!).

Ingy’s Sunday night Live Piano Karaoke is a fun, friendly place to sing your heart out or just enjoy the tunes and communal environment.

I go to Ingy’s when my heart is lonely

I know I will hear what I’ve heard before

My heart will be blessed with the sound of music

And I’ll sing once more.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml.