Two high-profile musicians with legendary careers, iconic songs and a devoted following among millions of fans are lending their support to the Bardavon 1869 Opera House as the historic theater continues to navigate the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
You may have heard of these two performers. Their names are Carly Simon and Annie Lennox.
That’s right, the woman whose deep song catalog includes such classics as “Nobody Does It Better,” “You’re So Vain” and “Coming Around Again” is going to bat to support the Bardavon, an anchor of Poughkeepsie, New York, and the surrounding Hudson Valley, for more than 150 years.
So is Lennox, who along with Dave Stewart turned the music industry on its ear in the 1980s with The Eurythmics, and the songs “Sweet Dreams” and “Here Comes the Rain Again.” Lennox after the Eurythmics has been enjoying a solo career fueled by such hits as “Why?” and “No More ‘I Love You’s.'”
Both musicians are among a group of female performers who have recorded video performances of Carole King songs as part of the Bardavon’s ongoing celebration of landmark albums. Simon performs “You’ve Got A Friend.” Lennox performs the title track.
Everything will culminate at 8 p.m. Wednesday with the latest installment of “Albums Revisited” on YouTube and a deep dive on King’s “Tapestry,” which was released on Feb. 10, 1971. Cindy Cashdollar, Dar Williams Marcia Ball, Carolyn Wonderland, Kate Pierson of the B-52s and Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones are also joining in.
The free viewing on YouTube is a fundraiser for the Bardavon, which along with venues across the country has been shuttered for nearly a year by restrictions on public gatherings triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of the nationwide #SaveOurStages movement, the Bardavon and its sister theater, UPAC in Kingston, have been dark since March 2020. Both venues represent in sharp relief how the health crisis is clobbering local, independent venues that make up the multi-billion dollar live music industry.
And the Bardavon and UPAC show how the National Independent Venue Association is navigating these dire circumstances and uncertain times. Even though Congress recently adopted the billion-dollar #SaveOurStages legislation, weeks or months could pass before the funding is allocated and NIVA in the meantime continues to raise money for its member venues.
At the Bardavon, its YouTube endeavors began generating a lot of interest in August with a celebration of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.” The initiative, said Bardavon Executive Director Chris Silva, has “allowed us to stay in the present while we’re closed, kind of open while we’re closed.”
All told, these album tribute YouTube offerings, which also paid tribute to the Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground and Van Morrison have drawn more than 20,000 views. The Bardavon’s broad reach is underscored by its YouTube presentation of Handel’s “Messiah,” which attracted 85,000 viewers; and the over-the-top response to “The Nutcracker,” with 700,000 views. The Bardavon’s educational streams, including “Rhapsody in Black,” “Sugar Skull!” and “Virtual “Step Afrika” have generated another 18,000 views.
The Bardavon’s online presence also includes “Hip Hop Theatre;” the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, which is managed and presented by the Bardavon; and “Envision Kingston,” a celebration of arts and culture in the Ulster County city.
“The albums are just the half of it,” Silva said. “The holiday stuff, the HVP, the collaborations with other organizations, “Envision Kingston,” these are all just ways to connect with the community, which is what we do. That’s our goal, to add to the community dialogue.”
And the effort is raising cash, with the video streams spurring $55,000 in donations. But the financial impact of this health crisis is hitting the Bardavon and venues across the country hard. The Bardavon in 2020 lost $2 million and expects to lose another million dollars or more in 2021.
“It’s bad,” Silva said.
The Bardavon needs $80,000 a month to keep the lights on in Poughkeepsie and Kingston. And while Silva and his team raised $1 million during the pandemic, he’s already started on raising the next million, and needs yet another million on hand to be ready for when the Bardavon and UPAC open, which in a perfect world would be in the fall.
Silva concedes that timeline is optimistic, but, he said, “We are moving cautiously as though that’s a possibility.”
In the meantime, he is hoping folks maintain their Bardavon memberships; buy new memberships; hold on to their tickets for rescheduled shows; or even donate their tickets back to the Bardavon.
And the Carole King tribute on YouTube will offer another opportunity for Bardavon supporters to dig into their wallets and support their favorite Hudson Valley theaters. The effort is also raising money for People’s Place in Kingston and Dutchess Outreach in Poughkeepsie.
Asked if he had any words of wisdom for the Bardavon audience, which in the Hudson Valley looks to its two regional theaters for far more than just compelling performances or enduring culture, Silva, admitting they were cliches, said, “Hang in there. Stay strong. I feel so much more optimistic in 2021 than I did in 2020, for a whole lot of reasons.”
Here is the full lineup for the Bardavon Presents YouTube celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of Carole King’s Tapestry:
I Feel the Earth Move – Kat Quinn
So Far Away – Dar Williams
It’s Too Late – Jonatha Brooke
Home Again – Jill Sobule
Beautiful – Patti Rothberg
Way Over Yonder – The Texas Guitar Women featuring Marcia Ball on piano and vocals; Sarah Brown on bass; Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel guitar; Shelley King on guitar and vocals; Lisa Pankratz on drums; and Carolyn Wonderland on guitar and vocals.
You’ve Got a Friend – Carly Simon
Where You Lead – Katie Kadan
Will You Love Me Tomorrow – Laura Stevenson
Smackwater Jack – Lara Hope and The Ark-Tones
Tapestry – Annie Lennox
A Natural Woman – Kate Pierson with The Restless Age