Caffè Lena offers "Stay Home Sessions" to Offset Impact of COVID-19
As efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 force music venues across the nation to go dark, Saratoga’s Caffè Lena is maintaining a nightly concert schedule. There will be no audience in the popular venue’s 110 seats, but bands will take the stage to keep delivering music “at a time when it’s needed most,” in the words of Caffè Lena’s Board President Jim Mastrianni.
Using three broadcast cameras mounted in the performance space, the venue will use professional operators to livestream concerts on its YouTube channel.
“We’re really concerned about the loss of income for independent musicians who are unable to work now, and we also know that music helps everyone feel better at times like this,” explained Mastrianni.
As part of a major renovation completed in 2016, the non-profit venue purchased the cameras with a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. Viewers type comments while they watch. “Based on people’s remarks, we know it’s a big pick-me-up to be part of an audience when people are feeling isolated and worried,” said Mastrianni.
“Music is our mission,” said Executive Director Sarah Craig. “We can’t be together in person for a few weeks, so we’re going to engage people right in their living rooms. It seems like lots of folks are eager to help our musical family stay strong during this challenging time.”
“We have three years of experience with livestreaming shows,” Craig added. “These are fully staged performances supported by our ace tech crew. It takes some getting used to for the musicians to play for an empty house, but they’re all really grateful for the opportunity to connect with their fans.”
As Saratoga Springs declared a state of emergency, the venue’s first official Stay Home Session got underway with the kid-friendly Steptune!, a local Irish dance and music trio. More than 130 families tuned in on short notice. A viewer going by the handle kins-channel commented, “It’s much appreciated entertainment for our girls stuck at home in Albany. They are dancing along so maybe we can wear them out!”
Craig is filling out the schedule with local and regional talent, with a goal of offering a broadcast every night at 8 PM for the duration of the shut-down. The line-up currently includes a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with Kevin McKrell and friends; a night of bluegrass on March 18, including a play-from-home jam session with Schroon River String Band, and a Thursday performance by Troy trio Joan Kelsey’s Silver Lining. The performances can be accessed through the venue’s website, www.caffelena.org.