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Sisters have been singing together since booster-seat days

Hopkinton sisters Abbey (left) and Jaclyn Perreault performed at Main Streets Cafe.

John Perreault

Hopkinton sisters Abbey (left) and Jaclyn Perreault performed at Main Streets Cafe.

According to family lore, when the two girls were still tiny enough to use booster seats in the car, they’d sing along with the radio until their mother pleaded for temporary silence.

Now sisters Jaclyn and Abbey Perreault are 21 and 19, respectively, but they admit that they still sometimes overwhelm fellow passengers with their compulsion to harmonize with the radio when riding together.

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The sisters have loved to sing for as long as they can remember — and during their childhoods and teenage years growing up in Hopkinton, they also learned to play various instruments, and started writing songs. Additionally, they have both always felt comfortable in front of an audience. Even during those difficult middle school years, Abbey recalled recently, “it was a release of sorts to sing for a group, an escape from the awkwardness of adolescence.”

Thursday evening, the two share a bill with the folk duo Ergo Canto at Main Streets Market & Café in Concord. It will be their typically varied bill of fare, say the Perreault sisters.

“We do sort of an indie sound, and we sing everything from the Peter Paul & Mary and Simon and Garfunkel tunes that our more traditional folk fans appreciate to the covers of Rihanna, Mumford and Sons, and Imagine Dragons that we have fun adapting to our own styles,” Jaclyn said. They admire some lesser-known contemporary folk musicians as well, such as New York-based Ingrid Michaelson and Antje Duvekot of Somerville.

The siblings have always been close friends. Each started studying piano at age 7 with local musician Haim Pickholz, a jazz pianist and arranger who continues to be something of a legend in Hopkinton for the number of children to whom he has taught piano.

As a teenager, Jaclyn took guitar lessons through a community education program and passed on what she learned to Abbey. As their musical acumen grew, so did their confidence in adding new and somewhat random instruments to their repertoire — in recent years, Jaclyn has started playing banjo, and Abbey the ukulele. A typical performance might also see them pulling out maracas, bongo drums, and numerous other accessories for accompaniment.

The lure of the stage may be encoded in their DNA: their mother, Cheryl Perreault, is a self-described community arts facilitator who runs “Wake Up and Smell the Poetry” for the town’s local-access cable TV station, HCAM.

From childhood, the girls joined their mother to circulate among local folk singers who frequented open mike events in the area, and it wasn’t long before they found themselves in the spotlight.

Family friend Ellen Schmidt, a member of the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston who directs annual productions of “Bound for Glory,” a tribute to Woody Guthrie in narrative and song, invited them to sing perform some of Guthrie’s children’s songs, and they’ve felt at home on stage ever since. For the past several years, Abbey and Jaclyn have even been among the entertainers on the Walk for Hunger route, positioned at around Mile 8 in Newton to use their voices and energetic tunes to keep the walkers motivated.

More recently, the Perreaults have both started trying their hand at writing songs.

“ ‘Wish You Well’ is a song in which I wrote the music to accompany a poem written by a peer recovering from substance abuse,” Jaclyn said. “This young woman is a talented writer who had been curious about hearing her poem transformed into a song, and I enjoyed being part of this collaboration.”

Not all of the sisters’ songs are of the emotional variety, however; Jaclyn recently wrote “a dorky song about physics” inspired by the intensive course she’s taking this summer.

Though the two sisters are attending different colleges — Jaclyn is a senior and a biology major at Smith College in Northampton, and Abbey hopes to dual-major in English and cognitive neuroscience at Brown University in Providence, where she just finished her freshman year — it doesn’t particularly bother them that practice time can be hard to come by. After all, they’ve been harmonizing together all their lives, and when the opportunity arises, they pick up right where they left off: two voices blending and combining, just as they always have.

The other performers appearing from 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday at Main Streets, 42 Main St. in Concord Center, are longtime friends and fans of the Perreault girls.

Retired software designer Paul Beck of Carlisle, the male half of the Ergo Canto duo, plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, and cittern. His musical partner is Leslie Bryant of Maynard, a speech therapist by day who plays flute, fiddle, and harmonica. Like the Perreault sisters, Ergo Canto plays original songs as well as traditional folk tunes and covers.

For more information or dinner reservations, call 978-369-9948 or go to www.mainstreetsmarketandcafe.com.

Send ideas to nancyswest@ gmail.com.
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