Copake has a Grange, #935 to be precise. From Wikipedia: “The Grange, officially named The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a social organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. The Grange, founded after the Civil War in 1867, is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope. The Grange actively lobbied state legislatures and Congress for political goals, such as the Granger Laws to lower rates charged by railroads, and rural free mail delivery by the Post Office.” Essentially, in Copake, we are a community organization that does stuff to enhance the quality of life in the community. It’s a membership organization like the Lions or the Elks; we put on events and we reach out to the community, doing food drives, cleaning up roadways and the like.
And like most Granges, it has a Grange Hall. In this Grange Hall, built in 1903, we have dinners, movies, baking and cooking contests (we have a full service industrial kitchen), plays and concerts. Our grange hall has a theatre with a box office and stage and green rooms. It has about 100 seats and the wooden walled stage sounds great. There is a piano, a sound system and some lighting. There is a whole common room next to the theater where we have dinners and dances.
Before we moved out here, knowing that there was a Grange, I knew I wanted to start an open mic at the Grange. I have been intrigued by the concept of the grange hall as a rural community gathering place for years, dating back to my song Peaceful & Clean with the line “Violent gyrations at the Grange Hall Dance.” This would give me a way to play music out regularly without having to go through the onerous process of constantly seeking out gigs.
In Boston, in the nineties, I spent a lot of time at the Cantab Lounge where Geoff Bartley held a legendary open mic on Monday night where many performers got their starts. I loved playing there and met a lot of musicians. I started playing in several bands as a result of that experience. It was a great social life and a great musical experience.
So, out here in the hinterlands, I run an open mic. It is the first Friday of every month. We tried some other days but we landed on Friday. We’ve been going since June 2018. The pandemic got a little intermittent but we powered through. Originally we were lucky if we got a dozen people and the evening would mostly consist of me playing. Now we get 30-40 people and a full night of performers. We have a good amount of really talented writers and poets. We have a group of tween children who come and play instruments, sing, and excerpt musicals. And we have a bunch of excellent singer songwriters who play individually and in groups. I get to play with some of these people, notably House Band, Noyes and the Boyes, and The Solar Plexus.
This March we preempted the open mic to present a concert by my ukulele teacher, Charissa Hoffman. She was coming through town up from Nashville on her first tour since graduating Berklee College of Music in Boston. I thought she would be a good fit for the Grange so I arranged to have a concert. We had another young performer, Geneva O’Hara open for her and I backed up Geneva on guitar. We had about 40 people who loved it and it was a great success.
The best thing was having all these people staying at our house. Geneva and her girlfriend, Shelby, and her mom, Tami’s best friend, Maria, all slept scattered throughout the first floor and Charissa and her band, JJ Halpin and Garrett Goodwin, stayed upstairs in the guest rooms. It was the last night of their tour and after a week of couches and floors they deserved something nicer.
Tami made us chili for dinner and egg casseroles and vegan French toast for breakfast. I love having the opportunity to show off our house and Tami’s cooking. It’s great having young people here. It was also great to be able to play with such great musicians. I’m hoping to make it a regular thing.