Greenwich Village’s creative flame burned bright this Independence Day as Cornelia Street Cafe celebrated its 40th Anniversary. The cafe, which has been serving food along with performances of all kinds since the neighborhood’s bohemian heyday, took over its sleepy one-block stretch for an afternoon of music, memories and lots of rosé.
Owner Robin Hirsch made the rounds, recounting tales featured in his book, The Whole World Passes Through: Stories From The Cornelia Street Cafe. Among the performers were the stilt walkers of Bond Street Theater and Amran & Co., an ensemble featuring composer David Amram, who has known many of the legendary jazz and folk musicians of the past 60 years.
Between songs, Amram recalled spending time with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Charlie Parker and Jack Kerouac. His company, which features Rene Hart, Kevin Twigg, Elliot Peper, and David’s own son Adam, played music that reflected a bygone era when, Amram said, “you could walk two blocks in any direction and get an education.”
An example of that local wisdom was on display the night before on Cornelia Street Cafe’s quaint basement stage when Amram & Co. played their monthly Monday performance. Throughout the show both Amram and Hirsch told anecdotes from Cornelia Street Cafe’s past 40 years to an audience eager to hear them. They were later joined by acclaimed
The Cornelia Street Cafe opened in 1977 and went on to host “an enormous variety of artists, from singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega to poet-senator Eugene McCarthy, from members of Monty Python to members of the Royal Shakespeare Company,” according to a brief history on its website. During its 10th anniversary, Mayor Ed Koch proclaimed the cafe “a culinary as well as a cultural landmark.”