Folk Club Is Singing The Blues

March 20, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — For five years, folk musicians and fans here have played and heard their kind of music at the Coffee House.

Nostalgic and new tunes filled the auditorium of the Carroll County Historical Society one Saturday evening a month as several musicians volunteered their time and talent, often auditioning a new song.

Admission was $3 per person and usually covered the evening's expenses, including $75 to rent the society's auditorium.

As the event grew in popularity, about 60 to 80 people came regularly to the "listening place," said Roger Himler, singer and guitarist. Convivialityreigned, he said, as the friendly audience supplied and shared refreshments.

"People came to socialize," said coordinator Robert P. Miller. "Music was not just the background. It was the main focus."

For the past few months, though, no one has heard the music play.

The Coffee House is homeless, unable to relocate to an affordable building that is accessible to people with handicaps.

The Carroll County Arts Council sponsors the folk festival. Since the council receives state and county funds, its programs must be accessible to all residents. The Historical Society does not fit state accessibility criteria.

The council handles promotion, advertising and mailing for the Coffee House, which is a non-profit event, staffed by volunteers. The council also purchased a sound system for the musicians' use.

In response to a complaint filed several months ago, director MargaretM. Slater said the council has been working to make all its events "100 percent accessible as required by law."

"We have given the coordinators suggestions on where they could relocate," said Slater. "There are places in the area which could accommodate the program, although they might have to jack up their prices a little to meet expenses."

Miller said he would like to find one of those places and stickwith it. So far, though, his committee has come up empty.

"We haven't given up, but we have hit a stumbling block," he said.

The committee considered the Ag Center on Smith Avenue, where the rent was double that of the Historical Society. Another option, Quality Inn onRoute 140, had no weekend nights available. Locust House called the event unsuitable for that location.

"While I fully understand the needs of the handicapped, I believe in some instances full accessibility could be waived," said Miller. "Because of the wishes of a few, afine artistic evening could exist no longer."

When he invited a handicapped friend to a Coffee House recently, that person experiencedno difficulties, he said.

"I just hope we can find a place," saidHimler, who said he enjoys hearing other musicians perform. "There'snothing else comparable in the county or surrounding areas."

Barbara Parry, another member of the search committee, said the Coffee House has helped several area musicians launch careers.

"It's a realproving ground for songwriters," she said. "The audience gives performers a lot of positive feedback. Many performers you hear in other establishments got their start at the Coffee House."

The problem will be resolved temporarily with the arrival of warmer weather, said Slater. During the summer months, the Coffee House uses the Farm Museum's amphitheater, which is handicapped-accessible.

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