Singer Emilie Conway, accompanied by keyboard player Darragh Hennessy and bassist Marcos Varela, will perform a "Make Believe Nightspot, 1954" set of songs - numbers that one might have heard in the Village in earlier times, at places such as the Bon Soir club on 8th Street - located directly behind the Washington Square Hotel - which was a professional starting place for singers such as Barbra Streisand (at age 19), another guest of the Hotel Earle. Darragh and Marcos will also perform an instrumental set of tunes inspired by the artistry of pianist Bill Evans during his famous gigs at the Village Vanguard in 1961.
Actress Kelly Letourneau performs dramatic readings of Irish-American author Maeve Brennan's memoir-like "Long-Winded Lady" rememberings of life in the Village, written for the New Yorker magazine in the 1950s and '60s. Brennan was a long-time Villager, who lived for a time in the Washington Square Hotel (then the Hotel Earle) and captured in poetic prose the Village life of her times with a brilliance that echoes, in its comic and tragic perceptiveness, both Shakespeare and Chekhov.
Angela Bourke, author of Maeve Brennan: Homesick at The New Yorker, will give an informal chat about the Dublin village of Ranelagh (which, at various times, has been home to Brennan, Conway and Bourke herself), and tells of how much at home Maeve Brennan felt in the Greenwich Village of the 1940s, '50s, '60s, and '70s.
Richard Barone – singer-songwriter, arranger, producer and director, who has worked with musicians as diverse as Liza Minnelli, Peggy Lee, Lou Reed and Pete Seeger – will be the special guest at the launch of The Village Trip.
His latest album, Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s, celebrates songs that Barone rightly regards as being part of another, no less great, American songbook. Released this month, it features classics by Janis Ian, Fred Neil, Paul Simon, Phil Ochs, Lou Reed and Tim Hardin, among others.
Barone, who lives in Greenwich Village, has said: "I walk these streets in the Village every day and I think: Everything here was part of this music, including the architecture. Even the brick streets. Because these were the streets that were laid by immigrants who came here by ship. That is why the authenticity is here. That's why it all seems so real and so beautiful."
An Evening of Words and Music with Maeve Brennan and Friends took place in the Lounge at the Washington Square Hotel, a boutique family business in the heart of Greenwich Village which Brennan – who John Updike said “put New York back into the New Yorker” – would have known as the Hotel Earle when she lived there in the 1950s and ‘60s. Dylan Thomas, Ernest Hemingway, Barbra Streisand, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan all spent time at the Earle, which Joan Baez immortalised in “Diamonds and Rust” as “that crummy hotel over Washington Square”. “That was our funky period,” joked CEO Judy Paul, whose family bought the Earle in 1973, by which time it was something of a dive, enabling young artists to crash there cheaply.
Dublin-based jazz singer Emilie Conway offered snatches of Baez’s poignant reflection on her affair with Dylan, which began in room 305, and of “California Dreamin’”, which legend has it was written at the Earle “on a winter’s day” in 1963 by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Conway, and keyboard player Darragh Hennessy, also from Dublin, and bass player Marcos Varela, very much a local, dipped further back in time, to the 1950s, with a set that Maeve Brennan – a fan of Billie Holiday – might have heard, had she stopped by the Bon Soir club, located on Eighth Street, just at the back of the Hotel. In the early 1960s, Streisand made her debut there, staying at the Earle.
RADA-trained Irish-American actress Kelly Letourneau, surely born to play Maeve, brought Brennan to life once more, reading three of her celebrated New Yorker columns, written under the soubriquet The Long-Winded Lady. Among them: “From the Hotel Earle”. Angela Bourke, Brennan’s biographer, put the writer’s life in context, quoting her statement “Home is a place in the heart: when it is empty, it frets”.
The evening’s special guest was singer-guitarist Richard Barone. Drawn from Florida to Greenwich Village by the very history the Village Trip will celebrate, he sang “Changes” by Phil Ochs, another of the great sixties’ singer-songwriters who honed his craft in Village coffeehouses. Barone’s latest album, Sorrows and Promises, celebrates Greenwich Village in the 1960s.
All of which left the Village Trippers time to enjoy another delicious Barr Hill vodka or gin – generously supplied by Caledonia Farms and Blueprint Distribution – while Darragh Hennesy and Marcos Varela closed the evening with a set inspired by Bill Evans’ legendary gigs at the nearby Village Vanguard in 1961.
The evening itself was ajudged a success, raising both money and profile, and the response to the Village Trip has been positive indeed. Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey sent goodwill messages, and local business and cultural alliances have stated their wish to be involved with the project. NYC&Company is aboard and we will shortly reveal a significant partnership.
See Maeve Brennan is feted in her adopted homeland in the Irish Times
Kelly Letourneau is a New York City-based actor, singer, dancer, and teacher. Most recently, she played Laura in ArtsPower National Touring Theater’s Laura Ingalls Wilder. Kelly has trained at the Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and earned her BFA in drama from Tisch School of the Art’s New Studio on Broadway. When not on stage, Kelly works as the Program Director for the Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford and as a coach, teaching young people about voice and speech as well as acting. Favorite roles include: Hermia (Midsummer, Tiltyard, off-Broadway), Monselet (Red Noses, NYU/Tisch), Nestor/Andromache (Troilus and Cressida, RADA), Juliet/Tybalt (Romeo and Juliet), Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) and Millie (Thoroughly Modern Millie).
Emilie Conway is an award-winning Dublin-born jazz singer who made her stage debut in an impromptu session with Jon Hendricks and Kurt Elling at the celebrated Green Mill Jazz Club, Chicago, in 1999. That fateful encounter changed the course of her life. Emilie went on to spend four years in Chicago, in apprenticeship to the music of this legendary jazz and blues city. She has won scholarships to Berklee College of Music, Boston, the Vermont Jazz Centre and Souza Lima, Brazil.
Her musical influences range from Billie Holiday, Elis Regina, Edith Piaf, Abbey Lincoln, Kurt Elling and Joni Mitchell, to Monteverdi and Mahler. Based in Ireland since 2005, she released her debut album, The Secret of a Rose, in 2012 to critical and popular acclaim and her follow-up Dear World: Emilie Conway Sings Alec Wilder has been very well received since its in release in 2016.
Darragh Hennessy is a pianist/organist currently living in South Dublin. He has been studying piano for the last 13 years, focusing on jazz and classical music in particular. Darragh takes inspiration from a wide variety of jazz artists, from Herbie Hancock to Paul Bley. In 2013, Darragh graduated from Newpark Music Centre with a BA in Jazz Performance. Since then he has been working at improving as a musician while performing at various venues across Ireland. He began working with Emilie in December 2016, ahead of Ranelagh Arts Centre's centenary celebration of Maeve Brennan in February.
Marcos Varela is a bassist, composer, producer and arranger based in New York City. His debut release, San Ygnacio, has earned five Grammy ballot considerations, was named among Jazziz Magazine’s top releases of 2016 and was selected by NPR Music as one of the top debuts of 2016. It features George Cables, Billy Hart, Clifton Anderson, Logan Richardson, Dayna Stephens, Arnold Lee, Eden Ladin and Kush Abadey and has liner notes by the legendary Ron Carter. Bass Player described it as: “An intriguing mix of personalities and influences, generations and sounds, San Ygnacio traces Marcos Varela's journey from Houston to New York, a trek rich with experiences and opportunities. It's a striking debut that points the way toward even more music – and miles – to come.”
Angela Bourke, a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, is the author of Maeve Brennan: Homesick at The New Yorker, the biography that was in large part responsible for the Maeve Brennan revival. Other books include the award-winning The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story (1999) and Voices Underfoot: Memory, Forgetting, and Oral Verbal Art (2016). She was joint editor of The Field Day Anthology: Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions (2002). Angela taught for over 30 years at UCD in Dublin, Ireland, where she is now Professor Emerita in the School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore.
As a student in the 1970s, Angela collected songs in Irish and English in Carna, County Galway. She lectures and publishes in both languages and has lectured or held visiting academic positions in many countries, teaching courses in the US at Harvard University, Notre Dame, Boston College and the University of Minnesota. She lives in Dublin.
Angela, Emilie and Darragh arrive in New York direct from Chicago, where they performed in “At Home at the American Writers’ Museum: A Celebration of Irish-American Women Writers” which marked the inauguration of this new Museum.