An American music tradition continues as the Tree of Life Congregation prepares to begin it second season of coffeehouse concerts.
The Tree of Life Congregation revived the coffeehouse concerts last year, replacing the UU Coffeehouse, which was run by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Shandon for 23 years.
The TOL Coffeehouse opens this season Oct. 20, when John McCutcheon, a seven-time Grammy nominee, performs.
“Many of us who love the TOL Coffeehouse also attend philharmonic, jazz, rock and other concerts at the Koger Center, Harbison, clubs, and bars,” said Lois Gibson, a member of the TOL Coffeehouse team. “We love music.”
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“The difference at the Coffeehouse is that we are close to the performers and everyone is there to listen and share in the personal experience. That’s why the Coffeehouse is often called Columbia’s Listening Room. The closest musical experience is at house concerts, where people open their homes for many of the same musicians who perform at the TOL Coffeehouse. But the Coffeehouse venue has better acoustics and can handle larger crowds without losing the sense of intimacy.”
A half century ago, American folk music thrived in coffeehouses.
The Library of Congress notes this trend emerged in the United States after World War II and during the 1950s and early 60s featured American folk and folk revival musicians. Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary popularized coffeehouse concerts in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
Coffeehouse concerts then, and now, offer an intimate, friendly, informal and relaxing atmosphere and are often nonprofit and/or volunteer-run organizations frequently hosted by churches like the TOL Congregation.
“Those of us who have followed the music at the UU Coffeehouse for years are ecstatic that the tradition has continued at the TOL Coffeehouse,” said Ann Jones, a TOL Coffeehouse volunteer and patron. “This is the best place in Columbia to listen to great singer songwriters in an intimate setting.”
Last season’s series included two sell-outs, and organizers have upgraded the sound system for this year.
“The TOL Coffeehouse, Columbia’s Listening Room, offers an amazing experience,” said Abe Wandersman, part of the TOL Coffeehouse team. “Talented singer-songwriters from around the country sing and tell you about the ‘secret sauce’ in their songs There is a real sense of community with friendly faces and an excitement about music and joining with others in hearing original songs, some humorous, some deep.”
Performers are paid from the ticket purchases. TOL Coffeehouse is a nonprofit, and relies on volunteers. If you’d like to volunteer, email TOLCoffeehouse@gmail.com.
Folks can also buy home-baked goodies and coffee, as well as food from Groucho’s at the concerts.
“I greatly enjoy the music TOL Coffeehouse offers,” said Jerred Metz, a TOL Coffeehouse volunteer and patron. “At TOL, as at the UU Coffeehouse, the audience is close to the musicians. Unlike other places where such music is performed, the audience is attentive. Both the audience and the performers appreciate this quality. Best of all, the performers are a thorough delight to hear, their music and songs inventive, sometimes with a biting or satirical edge, always with warmth and kindness.”
If you go
Where: Tree of Life Congregation, 6719 N. Trenholm Road
Time: Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Concerts begin at 7:30.
- Oct. 20: John McCutcheon
- Jan. 5: Jack Williams and the Winterline Band (Cary Taylor, Susan Taylor, and Danny Harlow)
- Feb. 2: Jonathan Byrd
- March 9: Dayna Kurtz
- April 6: Kenny George Band and Finnegan Bell
Cost: $20 with advance reservations; $23 at the door for John McCutcheon and for Jack Williams and Winterline Band. $18 advance; $20 at the door for all other concerts.
Tickets: To reserve tickets at a discounted price, call 803-200-2824 by noon on the day of the concert (do not call Tree of Life Congregation) and leave your name and the number of tickets. Your reservation will be recorded and you’ll pay the discounted price at the door. You will not receive a call back.
Tickets can also be reserved on the TOL Coffeehouse Facebook page by leaving a message by noon on the day of a concert. Reservations are not accepted on the Tree of Life Congregation website or by email.
Good to know: For questions and to join the TOL Coffeehouse email list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.