Our kids were the first people to sleep overnight in the barn in the blue swinging daybeds suspended from cables from the barn's high ceilings. Cynthia and David have a design sense that is at once sophisticated and casual--culled from magazines, a love of good typography, and travels in the Southern United States. Sitting on the swaying day beds, drinking good wine, if the motion overwhelmed us, we could catch our feet on the huge lacquered stumps of trees that were both coffee table and foot stool.
Joe del Tufo was the first to suggest that the barn be used as a house concert venue. Cynthia and David didn't quite know what this house concert deal was all about. But Cynthia approached a musician who was opening for an act at the Gild Hall, and soon she had booked Angela Sheik as The Barn's first act. From there, Cynthia has been able to book acts from all over the country. House concerts give musicians autonomy that few big venues can match. And the paydays aren't bad either; most places give them 100 percent of the house earnings. At $15-20 per person suggested donation, they can make more than they do in larger clubs that sometimes penalize artists if they can't bring in the crowds.
|The Barn, photo by Joe del Tufo|
This past weekend, we were treated to the music of Matthew Ryan and the Northern Wires. Mark and I had heard Ryan play solo at Burlap and Bean, a coffee house in Newtown Square, PA, almost a year to the date of his show at The Barn. At that time, he was just returning to the stage from a hiatus, and he apologized as he stumbled on some of his own lyrics. While that, too, was an intimate listening room environment, it was a different concert than The Barn. Audiences in The Barn are leaned-in and primed for musicians' confessionals. It is as much a venue for story-telling as for song, and we always leave the place feeling as though we have been let in on a secret. Matthew Ryan was witty and self-aware as he referenced favorite poets Seamus Heaney and Leonard Cohen. He was coy when he revealed that he now lives in Beaver, Pennsylvania, a place name that is so lost on itself that residents fail to see the titillating double entendres in many of their town slogans.
|Matthew Ryan performs at The Barn. Photo by Joe del Tufo|
The Barn has ruined me for all other music venues. It is the place and the people, but it is also the music. If I had to reduce my CD collection to just the ones I bought at the shows--and one always buys the music offered out of the minstrel's suitcase--I would lead a well-soundtracked life. With Alternate Route's Nothing More and Barnaby Bright's Gravity, Angela Sheik's Run for Cover or Flagship Romance's Treason, I could choreograph the rest of my days. Because it has no heating, The Barn only hosts shows in warmer months, and with the 2015 season open for business, I suspect that my CD collection will grow in spite of my current state of bliss. To quote singer Susan Enan--Bring on the Wonder.