A Birmingham institution returns. I'm really looking forward to this.
Songwriters Café, led by Paul Murphy and Valeria Rispo, is back for a short season starting on Thursday September 4th, and running for nine weeks in all. Opening night is already full.
It's a magical affair. Paul and Valeria have crafted a wonderful, intimate performance space, fashioned below the treehouse Paul built years ago, and now lovingly refurbished. Paul is Master of Ceremonies; he'll do a song or two, and then four acts will each play short sets of around 20 minutes to the invited live audience and a (much larger) worldwide online audience, with an interval halfway though.
The craft of songwritingThe emphasis is on song writing. Paul programmes a very wide range of talent, from new and edgy to consummate veterans. The trick? You won't know who's on until you get there or you tune in to the stream. But the concerts are always interesting and sometimes unbelievably fabulous.
Donations to fund events are key. This season you can donate in advance; you then become a member to guarantee a place at each of the house gigs. That's a good thing: it helps to pay for the massive overhaul that the performance space needed. The 2012 season was a soggy affair: it rained on 12 out of the 13 weeks. Then the following winter did so much damage to the old structure, that a costly rebuild was necessary. So remember that when the hat comes round.
The result is a watertight, slightly larger space, with a few little extra wrinkles added for those who are there on the night, and for the online audience too: this season, the live stream will go out in stereo for the first time.
A second emphasis is on the audience. Songwriters Café audiences listen; they give the performers space and respect. To me, that is so, so welcome. I've lost count of the number of times noisy idiots have disprespected someone up on stage who is giving of themselves. And it's getting worse, not better. Live music from committed talent, young or old, is one of those gifts that you can't put a price on. Songwriters Café supports that, brilliantly.
|Laptop-lit: Rispo on chatbox, Valk on Virtual DJ. By Richard Shakespeare|
Online streamsAccess is limited: these are private house gigs for invited audiences. But you can join in online, and you'll be very welcome: online audience response is key and very much appreciated. You'll normally find me doing online continuity from 8.30 pm UK time, warming up to the night's events with choice cuts from previous seasons. When we're live, the chatbox is hosted by Valeria. Songwriters Café is also very happy to hear from radio stations near and far who might like to relay the stream, live or deferred. Give me a shout in the first instance.
Tasters from previous yearsI'm putting together a taster series of short programmes to celebrate the restart; you can also link to them from the Songwriter's Café website. Here's the first.
To find out more, follow this link. Access is by invitation only; Songwriters Café is a house gig.