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Tree of Life Congregation gives new life to former UU Coffeehouse tradition


The Tree of Life Congregation is reviving a musical tradition this fall in Columbia.

The TOL Coffee House replaces the UU Coffeehouse, which was run by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Shandon for 22 years.

“We didn’t want it to die,” says Abe Wandersman, co-chair of the TOL Coffee House.

The first of four concerts currently scheduled will be Ellis Paul with opening act Darryl Purpose on Nov. 4.

A few decades ago (OK, maybe more than a few) artists like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary popularized coffeehouse concerts in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

Noted in the Library of Congress, historically American folk and traditional music was produced in community-based venues such as churches.

The TOL Coffee House wants to keep this vibe alive.

Here are five things to know, including comments from committee members Gail Bienstock, Lois Gibson, Lois Wandersman and Abe Wandersman about the TOL Coffee House:

1) It will be in the Tree of Life Social Hall, at 6719 N. Trenholm Road.

2) Groucho’s food will be served. The menu includes Famous “Grab-N-Go” cold subs, hot dogs (kosher & turkey), 45 Sauce, chips, desserts and nonalcoholic beverages.

3) The informal setting, professional sound system, and comfortable environment will all contribute to the sense of being in a large house concert, TOL Coffee House committee members say. The volunteers staffing the Coffee House are looking forward to welcoming attendees and providing an atmosphere that encourages socializing with old and new friends before the concert and during intermissions.

4) Also from the committee, “We will continue to book musicians that are wonderfully creative and bring a joy of music and a positive spirit and real human connection to the audience. We feel confident that we’ve met this goal with the lineup for the first season: Paul Ellis, Jack Williams, Harpeth Rising and Vance Gilbert interact with the audience, performing music that is fresh within a timeless genre. They inspire audiences, and actively contribute to the welcoming environment during intermission.”

5) The TOL revived the Coffee House – most recently house at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Shandon – because it values live music in small venues. When the UU series was ended, some of its members joined with TOL and with unaffiliated music lovers to find a new venue. TOL understood the need and offered its facilities to keep the concerts going and continuing to provide joy and inspiration to the community. “Our hope is that nostalgia will bring mid-lifers and seniors, and the timeless lyrics and fresh music will speak to younger generations. We also hope the warmth and humor that the artists bring to their performances will speak to the entire community. Given the smaller venue, audiences can ‘touch’ and be touched by the artists, hear the meaningful words, and experience the dedication of the artists, who have chosen this difficult lifestyle in an effort to keep a tradition going while sharing their creative passion. We think those who come for an evening will be engaged enough to keep returning as we have.”

Upcoming concert schedule

Tree of Life Congregation Coffee House

Nov. 4 – Ellis Paul with opening act Darryl Purpose

Jan. 6 – Jack Williams and the Winterline Band’s famous “post New Year’s Eve” show

March 17 – Harpeth Rising

April 21 – Vance Gilbert

For announcements, add your name to the list by emailing tolcoffeehouse@gmail.com