Go Columbia

Two area churches are venues for unique entertainment experiences this Fall

Music fans can enjoy a series of coffeehouse concerts at Tree of Life Congregation beginning Oct. 26, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Columbia will be the host for Go, Granny D!” , a one-woman show by Barbara Bates-Smith on Nov. 2.

Coffeehouse concerts have played a vital part of the country’s music history for about 75 years, and a popular part of the Columbia music scene for the past 26.

Columbia’s Coffeehouse Concerts started at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Columbia and remained there for 23 years. When the concert series needed a new home, a group of longtime concertgoers started a "Save the Coffeehouse" movement and moved to Tree of Life Congregation, where it will continue for its third season.

“We investigated several venues,” says Lois Gibson, , a member of the TOL Coffeehouse team. “A few members of the group were also members of Tree of Life Congregation, which looked like an excellent venue. Tree of Life welcomed us as part of their love of music and desire to cultivate community.”

TOL Coffeehouse is a non-profit organization, separate from the Tree of Life Congregation. Proceeds are shared with the congregation.

This concert series has proven popular in Columbia, carrying on a tradition started a half century ago when 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 non-profit and/or volunteer-run organizations frequently hosted by churches like the TOL Coffeehouse.

“It’s a great place for a diverse group of music lovers to meet and to enjoy a comfortable place to share live music,” Gibson says.

The venue makes it a different “concert” experience, she adds. “Our venue is cozier than most others, more like a house concert in someone's living room, though ours is a big living room, with room for about 200 people. The atmosphere is friendly, and people come early to meet and chat with other lovers of Americana music.”

Abe Wandersman, part of the TOL Coffeehouse team, says it’s an enjoyable experience for all.

“This is Columbia's listening room,” Wandersman says. “The musicians really enjoy playing for us because we listen and care about the music.

“Every concert so far has been fun: There's a sense of community and a good vibe in the room.”

Good vibes will also be found at Unitarian Universalist Congregation Columbia when Barbara Bates-Smith brings her critically acclaimed one-woman show to town.

Smith has been doing one-woman shows for 30 years, scripting many from adaptations of novels. “Go, Granny D!”, a show based on a memoir of Doris Haddock’s nonagenarian adventures, is one of those.

The story goes, Smith picked up the book one day about six years ago. It was among a pile of “I’ll read these one day” books stacked beside her chair.

The subtitle on the book caught the then-82 year old’s attention:

“You’re never too old to raise a little hell.”

“I figured someone gave it to me because of that subtitle,” Smith says.

“Go, Granny D!” is about Haddock, who at the age of 90 blazed a 3200-mile trail across America for campaign finance reform in 2000, precipitating the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act. She issued her final challenge in 2010 at age 100: "Democracy is a running game. You huddle and you go back in. You keep going."

Smith was amazed that not only did Haddock make her cross-country trek to raise awareness about campaign finance reform, but later, in 2004, she dressed as a mermaid to encourage working women to register to vote. She also ran (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. Senate that year. She was 94. She died at the age of 100.

In some ways, Smith is inspired by Haddock and has no plans to retire.

“I’m 88,” Smith says. “I’m the age Granny D was when she had the idea to walk across the country. She was 88 when she got the idea, 89 when she started, 90 when she finished. I’m greatly inspired by that. I have about five or six scripts in my head. They’re there. I can fly through them. As long as they’re there and I have my health, I’ll keep going.

If You Go to “Go, Granny D!”

When: Nov. 2

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 2701 Heyward Street.

Cost: Fundraiser tickets are $15 at the door. A reception follows.

For more information about Barbara Bates Smith go to


If You Go to TOL Coffeehouse Concert Series

Where: Tree of Life Congregation, 6719 N. Trenholm Road, Columbia

Time: Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.

Schedule: 2019 October 26 Sam Pacetti

December 7 David Wilcox

2020 January 4 Jack Williams and the Winterline Band (Cary Taylor, Susan

Taylor, Danny Harlow) plus special guest Ronny Cox

February 15 Ellis Paul

April 18 April Verch

Cost: $18 with advance reservations, $20 at the door for Sam Pacetti and April Verch; $20 advance, $23 at the door for Jack Williams and Ellis Paul; $23 in advance and $26 at the door for David Wilcox.

Tickets: To reserve tickets at the discounted price, call 803-200-2824 any time from now until 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. OR you can go to TOLCoffeehouse on Facebook to pay in advance on Square.

Tickets can also be reserved on the TOL Coffeehouse Facebook page by paying on Square or 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 tolcoffeehouse@gmail.com. You can also get more information on the TOL Coffeehouse Facebook page.