Many people wondered how The Merion Inn's music atmosphere would survive after its house musician, the renowned jazz pianist George Mesterhazy, passed away suddenly last April.
"He was the house pianist and people just loved him," says Vicki Watson, The Merion Inn's owner and Mesterhazy's longtime companion.
The answer quickly became evident, Watson says. The Merion Inn's music would live on as a tribute to Mesterhazy, performed by his many musician friends in his honor.
"His musician friends in the area wanted to keep the music tradition at The Merion Inn alive," Watson says. "The nightly music was so important to George and our customers - we have a very supportive musical community here in Cape May."
The Victorian building that houses the Merion Inn was built in 1885, in Watson's family since the 1970s. Originally a boarding house, The Merion Inn is now strictly a restaurant and bar that is known for its live music scene since the mid-'90s.
"It started when I brought a piano from a garage sale and then it sort of built from there," Watson says.
The Merion Inn hosts a solo pianist every night it's open, which includes Thursdays to Sundays in the offseason and daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The pianist comes on at 5:30 p.m.
All that jazz
The restaurant also hosts a jazz trio once a week on Thursdays in the offseason and Tuesdays in the summer. The jazz trio begins at 8 p.m., following the solo piano performance, and runs through the evening.
This week's lineup includes Barry Miles on piano from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 16, followed by a jazz trio 8 p.m. to close, featuring Barry Miles on piano, Tim Lekan on bass and Bob Shomo on drums. The jazz trio performance will switch to Tuesdays starting May 28.
On Friday, May 17, Dean Schneider will perform on the piano starting 5:30 p.m.; on Saturday, May 18, Rich Siegel will perform piano/vocals at 5:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, May 19, Jon Pruitt will be on the piano at 5:30 p.m.
The musicians typically perform music from The Great American Songbook and the performances take place in the lounge, where the piano is set up.
Patrons can dine in the lounge, at the bar in the lounge or in the adjacent dining rooms, where you can still hear, but can't see, the music.
Reservations to sit at a table in the lounge are highly recommended.
George Mesterhazy Tribute Concert:
In a tribute to Mesterhazy, one of Cape May's favorite jazz musicians, his bandmates will gather at Convention Hall for a second annual celebration of the Great American Songbook since his passing.
The George Mesterhazy Tribute Concert will be held at Convention Hall June 9 as part of the annual Cape May Music Festival. Tickets are $20 for students and seniors and $25 for all others. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to CapeMayCity.com.