Caffe Lena to Reopen at Limited Capacity

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Musicians will once again be able to perform to live audiences at the landmark venue.

Now that the Capital Region has entered Phase 4 of New York Forward, musicians will once again be able to perform to a live audience at the Saratoga Springs concert venue Caffe Lena.

“We’re taking it in baby steps, starting with 25% capacity,” said Caffe Lena Executive Director Sarah Craig. “Live performance venues were the first to shut down, and they’re the last to reopen. It’s essential for the future of music that we work out a way to open stages safely. Our goal is to meet and surpass the NYS Health Department guidelines.”

The venue’s first regular concert will take place on what would have been the opening night of the New York City Ballet at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. An ensemble from the NYC Ballet Orchestra will perform Franz Schubert’s Trout Quintet. Instead of playing for thousands of people in SPAC’s amphitheater, the five musicians will play for twelve parties at the legendary folk venue, as well as hundreds more online.

Last March Saratoga’s Caffe Lena joined performing arts venues across the region in closing its doors to the public. But, unlike other venues, it was designated an essential business for purposes of broadcasting live performances from its stage. The seats have been empty, but over the course of the past four months, tens of thousands of viewers around the world tuned in on YouTube to watch concerts on Lena’s stage.

“Recognizing that many of our patrons are not in a position to return to public gatherings, we’re becoming a kind of hybrid live-stream and live-audience venue,” explained Craig. “From now on, our headline concerts will be available in real time via Vimeo for a small fee, and our community programs and shows featuring local amateur talent will be streamed on YouTube for free.”

The venue has redesigned their seating for comfort and safety, offering couches for groups of 2, 3 and 4, and tables for two. “Single tickets will not be offered at this time but patrons are welcome to buy any seating unit for themselves or to share with a friend,” explained House Manager Carolyn Shapiro. “It’s not great for the bottomline to have just a quarter of our capacity, but the intimacy and comfort is going to be amazing. It’s really going to be like sitting in Lena’s living room.”

Opening week spans the breadth of the venue’s eclectic programming. Tuesday’s ballet opening will be followed by the monthly Bluegrass Night (7/15), with patrons playing along from their couches as High Peaks Bluegrass Band leads from the stage. The venerable Aztec Two-Step will play on Friday and Saturday (17th and 18th), followed by Boston blues sensation Erin Harpe Country Blues Duo on the 19th.

“Throughout the shut down we were able to generate paychecks for musicians and keep the venue afloat by streaming our shows live online. We use three cameras and a professional audio-visual crew. Many have asked if we’ll keep doing it, and the answer is yes. We even launched an online School of Music that is fully enrolled and growing fast. In a way, we’ve outgrown our little listening room and our customers are now spread out across the country,” said Craig. “I guess you’d call it a silver lining.”

Tickets and Information about Caffe Lena’s upcoming schedule are available on their website www.caffelena.org.

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