Cornelia Street Cafe
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The Cornelia Street Cafe, in New York City's Greenwich Village, USA, opened its doors in July 1977. It quickly became a magnet for artistic and creative folk. On any given night, one might hear writers, poets, or musicians, spilling their musings to a standing-room-only crowd in the tiny cafe. Exotic and edgy art hung from freshly painted white walls. The tables and chairs were wooden.
The Cornelia Street Cafe was the birthplace of the Monday night songwriter's workshop started by singer/songwriter/and then cafe waitress Carolyne Mas, in December 1977. The group became known as The Songwriter's Exchange, and released an album on Stash Records in 1980. The one rule for the songwriters was that the song had to have been written — or at least heavily worked on — within the past week. The song was performed and then critiqued by fellow songwriters. The following week, the song was brought back in its improved-upon, and hopefully final stage. The cafe was a venue in which songwriters like Suzanne Vega, the group's most famous alumna, perfected their craft. The Songwriter's Exchange, over time and under the guidance of Jack Hardy eventually evolved into the cooperative that formed the Fast Folk Musical Magazine.
Other regular contributors to the workshop included Carolyne Mas, Jack Hardy, Tom Intondi, David Massengill, Ray Korona, Cliff Eberhardt, Steven Brant, Lucy Kaplansky, Rod MacDonald, and Michael Fracasso.
Today, the Cornelia Street Cafe has expanded its walls, and is a gourmet restaurant and nightclub, showcasing musicians, poets, writers, and artists. Robin Hirsch, an author himself, and who nurtured the cafe's artistic reputation over the past 31 years, is still one of the owners. Singer/songwriter/pianist Valerie Ghent now runs The Songwriter's Beat, the current incarnation of The Songwriter's Exchange.
Lady Gaga has stated on several occasions, including interviews and her performance on Saturday Night Live, that she used to work there as a teenager.
House management style and structure
The treatment of performers at Cornelia Street Cafe by house management is inconsistent, and on some occasions, performers have been asked to prematurely end their set.
Rather than being operated as a concert venue, Cornelia Street Cafe should be considered a club venue. All performers are advised to take normal precautions when dealing with venues without a formal box office — agree in advance on items like compensation, house's cut, and length of set.