“Freeing the sculpture from the block of marble, discovering the songs within the guitar”

Peter Mulvey Concert 4/4/14 Reflections by Samantha Fassak Normally, when the person dies the room dies, but not here. I sat with Peter Mulvey in the Lena room of Caffè Lena on Friday evening about an hour before the show. Peter has performed here over two dozen times in the past two decades. He is highly familiar with this room and yet is still always struck by the way that Lena has been preserved within this venue. “Lena,” he observed, “is still alive in this room.” The Caffè has retained photos and signs from its origin in 1960. The spirit of Lena’s ideas and the fruits of her labor in bringing these ideas to life continue to exist. “This room,” he mentioned, still contains, “the echo of all the things that have gone on in it.” … Peter...

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CLHP Intern Blog: Samantha Fassak

Leyla McCalla at Caffè Lena 2/16/14 “Now I’m going to change the vibe in here entirely,” Leyla commented as she switched from a more solemn piece to the upbeat call-and-response chorus of Manman Mwen, And as she eased into the exchange of “Manman Mwen, Manman Mwen”— her, audience, her, audience—the atmosphere noticeably shifted. It is this element of connecting through music that makes Caffè Lena so special.  The artist crafts the atmosphere and sends out a common feeling that everyone relates to in his or her own way. Given the intimate size of the venue, the vibe is more vulnerable than it would be in a larger space. * * * When I first enter the Caffè, I am greeted by welcoming wooden floors, trodden upon by folk legends from decades past,...

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“Previously Hidden Merits Including Listening” By Emma Munger – Caffè Lena History Project Technical Specialist

Cataloging tapes for the Caffè Lena History Project is a strange process. I sit at my desk in a recording studio basement, surrounded by stacks of dusty, cassette-filled suitcases that have been rescued from various fans’ attics. My job requires me to be willing to listen, really listen, to anything. And it’s not all good. While some performances have stunned me (Dave Van Ronk’s “He Was a Friend of Mine,” or Rosalie Sorrels’ “If I Could Be The Rain”), I’ve also heard plenty of bad jokes, out-of-tune guitars, and flat vocalists. But I really enjoy listening to every tape. I think this is partly because I’m frustrated by the way we listen to music in this digital age. There is so much out there, and most of us barely have the patience to sift...

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Thoughts on Press Releases, Empathy, and Activism

Returning to the Caffѐ Lena History Project after six months in India has challenged me in ways I never would have expected. I had spent the last semester exploring issues in social justice on the other side of the world, and every day was met with a new discovery, a new revelation. It was at once a constant sensory and emotional overload, and it was amazing. To be perfectly honest, I came back to work in the Saratoga History Museum with a hint of skepticism. Returning from a world where the issues felt so immediate, the problems so urgent, I felt somehow as though returning to work with historical documents was less necessary, as though I could be doing something more tangible to make the world a better place. Since then, I have been searching for some way in...

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The GRAMMY Foundation Honors and Preserves Caffè Lena: A Story in Three Parts

In February, I flew across the country to Los Angeles, California on behalf of Caffè Lena to attend a special GRAMMY week event hosted by Sharon Osbourne, “One Night Only – A Celebration of the Live Music Experience.” The event honored small venues including the Grand Ole Opry, CBGBs, and The Apollo, with a special feature on Caffè Lena, honorary recipient of the GRAMMY Foundation's prestigious grant program.

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An interview with John Roth

In 2010, Minneapolis-based writer and curator Joan Rothfuss recommended arts attorney John Roth to the CLHP, proving once again our belief that exactly the right people come along at exactly the right time in the course of this project. (Lena, are you continuing to book people up there?) For 31 years, John has focused his legal work entirely on the arts and publishing.  He is one of the founders of the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, an international organization that produces and tours museum exhibitions of photography.  He knows publishing from all sides, since he has represented numerous authors as well as publishing companies, and has dealt with the full range of publishing houses,from the very small to the largest, including Random House....

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CLHP Intern Blog: Hannah Rank

Working with the Caffè Lena History Project this summer has reassured my belief that important causes can endure the test of time.  As the Caffè marches through 50+ years, a lot has changed, but its purpose remains to support folk music and community values. It continues to preserve an important history about a community that has consistently promoted important messages about equality and togetherness. The fact that the Caffè still stands is a testament to that message. In transcribing interviews from the Caffè Lena Oral History Collection of the performers at Caffè Lena throughout the years, I kept hearing over and over how much they felt Pete Seeger influenced them as musicians, but also as fellow members of the Folk Revival Movement. I couldn’t help but...

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