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High Five

Mel Stiller at Jacob Wirth

Mel Stiller plays piano and sings at the Jacob Wirth restaurant on Stuart street.

Mel Stiller plays piano and sings at the Jacob Wirth restaurant on Stuart street.

Almost every Friday night for nearly 24 years, Mel Stiller has been stationed behind the piano at Jacob Wirth, leading a raucous sing-along at the beloved Theatre District restaurant.

“I might take one off a year,” says Stiller, who loves his weekly engagement, has gotten to know his regulars by name, and has happily watched patrons go from first date to marriage. “Believe it or not, a lot of friendships have grown over the years.”

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Every year on the Friday before Christmas Stiller brings out the Christmas supplement for his mammoth sing-along book but says that “the vast majority of people still want the standard rock songs.” Although he often has to play the same songs week in and week out — Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” is a top request — Stiller says it never gets old. “If I was just sitting there by myself, playing the same songs all the time, that would be boring. It’s not boring if you see a whole room of people enjoying it.” We asked Stiller to give sing-along newbies five reasons to give it a try.

1. “It’s a great escape, you forget your cares for a night.”

2. “It’s a unique experience in the sense that there are books that are handed out with words to 500 songs and that it’s a group thing, not a karaoke thing. And most piano bars do the standards and show tunes and this is more oldies and classic rock.”

3. “Jake’s has a great beer selection, which helps you get in the mood to sing.”

4. “It’s the kind of place where no one’s really a stranger. People tend to meet each other and talk to each other and everyone is doing it as a group. It’s more of a communal experience.”

5. “It’s free.”

Sarah Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.
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