Back in 1998, Kathryn Robbie, my husband Roger Cristofoli and I decided to organize a coffee house. Kathryn’s daughters were talented young teenagers who needed a space to perform which did not involve the consumption of alcohol, and many of our artistic friends were also in need of an audience.
We made an arrangement with the owner of Common Grounds to hold a coffee house every Friday evening. People of all ages performed music and poetry, the audience swelled, and we had soon outgrown the venue. We moved downtown to what used to be the restaurant for the Marlane Hotel, and continued to hold successful events until Roger and I left to work overseas.
Now that we have returned to Castlegar, it is heartening to discover that someone else has taken up the torch of providing a venue for live performances.
Dannika Soukoroff has been organizing open stages in Castlegar for at least six years. Her desire is to have a space for people to express themselves and enjoy other people’s performances. She started by taking over the open mike event at Bagels and Brew.
After four years she saw that the amphitheatre outside the library could be put to more constructive use and, through the cooperation of the library, moved the event there.
Last year was the first year the open stage was held at the library and it was very successful. Often there were not enough seats for the crowds who came to listen.
This will be the second year that Dannika will organize open stages at the library amphitheatre.
She is excited about the project because she says it gives her an opportunity “to connect with other musicians and to improve personally as a musician.”
She has discovered that, in general, there is more interest shown for live performances. “People are becoming more community-minded in Castlegar.”
Having a venue to enjoy free music is also a benefit. In these difficult economic times it seems we need to revert to the community spirit of the Depression era: lacking funds to pay for entertainment, we make our own.
My mother often reminisced about the hardships brought on by the Depression, but rued the time when the economy improved.
“We might have been poor during the Depression,” she once said, “but we were all in the same boat. We visited with our neighbours, played music, pushed aside the furniture and danced in our living rooms … Now? We stay home, we watch TV. What kind of a life is that?”
Obviously my mother’s generation did not have access to Knowledge Network or PBS. Nevertheless, I would give up my favorite weekend mystery series in the interest of listening to live music.
May 1 was the first of regular Friday evening open stages at the library amphitheatre. The event goes from 7 to 9 p.m. and is open to any ages or types of entertainment.
The library has provided a microphone and guitar pick-up for amplification. Dannika has suggested that some enterprising people might set up a concession stand for the event. If you’re interested, contact Dannika at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The open stage tomorrow coincides with the Coffee House at the Castle Theatre, also beginning at 7. For such a small city, aren’t we lucky to have two similar events happening within a few blocks from each other? I cannot make up my mind which one to attend, so will probably check out both of them.