Elevator Access Food Available Space to Dance!
REMEMBERING RICKY EISENBERG
My dear friend, musical and "Big Road in Chelsea" partner, and ongoing inspiration in the quest for social justice, Eric (Ricky) Eisenberg, passed away on February 3, 2017, following a long illness which he battled with the same courage and determination that characterized his entire life. As his daughter, Julietta Eisenberg, and sister, Nora Halper, have written, "...he was a dynamo and a force to be reckoned with. Always ready to rumble, he packed a unique and out-sized energy, intellect, imagination, and warmth, and an unabashed enthusiasm for life." He was passionate about every endeavor to which he committed himself, from music (especially the blues that was inseparable from his artistic being, and the NYC Labor Chorus [where we met] that meant so much to him) and the struggle for a better world, to the artisanal woodworking that sustained him, and even the cooking (he was a creative chef) that was a highlight at gatherings of friends and family. A voracious reader and "repository of social history and culture (JE)," he was an engaging raconteur with a sharp sense of humor, always knowledgeable and insightful, an unforgettable presence who enhanced the lives of everyone who knew him. As his niece, Katie Halper, wrote, "Ricky never abandoned the ideas, principles, culture, and people that had enriched and defined his life." His loyalty, compassion and strength of character nurtured "a fiercely dedicated and loving family, as well as groups of devoted friends, who supported, advocated and cared for him in the half dozen hospitals and rehab centers he lived in for his last two years (KH)." I think of him often -- certainly each time I pick up a guitar ("I'd love to try this out with Ricky" and most often, "I really miss playing this with Ricky") or try to understand and address a seemingly intractable social problem. Big Road in Chelsea existed because of Ricky. He had been told that the Henry Winston Hall was available and he said, "Let's start a blues club there." It grew from that suggestion into something I will always be proud of. I believe we brought joy and a valuable multicultural experience to large numbers of people; I am grateful we had the opportunity to do so -- thanks to Ricky. And I will always be grateful that I had the wonderful gift of knowing Ricky Eisenberg. (Alan Podber)
Videos of Ricky performing with the Big Road Blues Band are posted on this website (see menu above).
Notice of Big Road in Chelsea's closing in June, 2014
We announce, with great sadness, that Big Road in Chelsea has had to close its doors. The Henry Winston Hall, where our events were presented, has been dismantled and replaced with commercial rental tenants. We had been able to produce accessible multicultural "mini-festivals" because the large physical space, coupled with limited "overhead" expenses, enabled us to recommend an affordable, family-friendly admission contribution, while still providing performers with fair compensation. Since we have been unable to locate a venue offering similar arrangements, we have no choice but to make this announcement. We would like to thank everybody who supported us during our period of operation, including the superbly talented artists who performed, the equally talented artists of the palate who created sumptuous global cuisine that perfectly complemented the world music, the dedicated volunteers who were crucial to the success of all the programs we presented, and with love and gratitude, everyone who attended Big Road in Chelsea. Please continue to support a vision of world culture that is focused on bringing us together in peace, creativity and sharing.
Alan and Ricky for the really Big Road, the one that links us all (the web page for our last event is shown below--I don't have the heart to take it down [AP]):
The last event at Big Road in Chelsea was a festival of world music from:
Japan, Mexico, South America, southern India, Africa, the Turkish community of the southern Balkans, Scotland, Ireland, and the southeastern U.S., as well as two acoustic blues bands and a poet accompanied by jazz and electronic sounds.
It took place on Saturday, June 21st, 2014, from 10 am to 9 pm, on the street in front of our former venue at 235 W. 23rd St., between 7th and 8th Avenues, Manhattan, directly across the street from the Chelsea Hotel, and it featured:
Dominic Cammarota--Classical & Modern Japanese music played on the shakuhachi (bamboo flute). A great way to start off, with the mellow and ethereal sounds of this ancient instrument.
10:00 am - 10:45 am
Mariachi Flor de Toloache--The first and only established all female mariachi band; founded in New York in 2008.
11:00 am - 11:45 am
Big Road Blues Band--Acoustic band consisting of guitars (6, 12, slide), mandolin and harmonicas, playing blues and ragtime-influenced music of the pre-World War II period.
12:00 pm - 12:45 pm
Piedmont Bluz--An acoustic guitar/washboard duo dedicated to the preservation of Country Blues, and the Piedmont style in particular.
1:00 pm - 1:45 pm
Leni Stern--The Leni Stern African Trio plays original compositions inspired by the span of cultures connecting Africa to American blues and jazz. They find the path of jazz and blues, and "ride its groove to the source" in Africa.
2:00 pm - 2:45 pm
New York Scottish Pipes and Drums--Bagpipes playing Scottish/Irish & other tunes.
3:00 pm - 3:45
POEZ--Poet/Performer with keyboard accompaniment.
4:00 pm - 4:45 pm
New York African Chorus Ensemble-- The group performs traditional, popular and high art music, and stages musicals and operas with African cultural themes. The chorus is accompanied by keyboard and traditional African instruments. Their performances present the stories of the struggles, beauty and strength of Africa.
5:00 pm - 5:45 pm
Dolunay--Dolunay (Turkish for “full moon”) plays the songs of the people of Turkish descent who lived across Rumeli, the southern Balkan region of the Ottoman Empire. Dolunay brings new life to the timeless songs and melodies of this region, known for its rich cultural diversity. Based in Brooklyn, the group features top-notch musicians from the NY music scene.
6:00 pm - 6:45 pm
Ana Cifuentes--A Colombian singer who has been living in New York City for the past 14 years. Her repertoire includes a wide range of music from Latin American folklore to current tunes from Latin American songwriters.
7:00 pm - 7:45 pm
Roopa Mahadevan--Combines her highly-trained Carnatic (South Indian Classical) voice with a uniquely American diasporic identity and soul. She is accompanied by traditional Indian musicians.
8:00 pm - 8:45 pm
Mission Statement and Plan
The center's mission is to (1) represent the cultural diversity found in and around New York by showcasing a wide range of musical performance genres (independently or in combination with theatrical and other performance arts), (2) build relationships with community groups to encourage/facilitate their participation in these programs, and (3) present a diverse range of performers from both inside and outside of the New York area, including international artists. We hope to provide a space where people can experience and learn from expressive art forms that may be unfamiliar to them, promoting inter-cultural understanding and sensitivity. We look forward to the venue becoming a place where people can share ideas, and even blend or adapt some of what they've experienced there into their own artistic visions. We are also hoping to engage our “concert” audiences with participatory activities such as dance instruction. Consistent with these aims is an outreach strategy that will draw upon a wide and diverse target audience by including several different music genres in each program. This approach was evident in our opening "concert," where we featured Irish and Latin music, danceable blues/jazz, and a popular, contemporary "string brass punk ragtime" band from Brooklyn. We envision each event as a kind of mini-festival in a two to three hour time frame.
Big Road in Chelsea is a not-for-profit venture, and will maintain a low cost for attendees in order to maximize affordability (and thereby make it attractive to a larger potential audience). This is made possible by the 300-person capacity of the hall, and a low overhead (basically at “cost”), so most of the gate will go to the musicians.
Our initial plan is to start with bi-monthly performances to build awareness of--and support for--our project throughout the city and its surrounding areas. It is hoped that we can gradually progress to having more frequent events if the project proves successful. We look forward to the time when talented artists of diverse cultural backgrounds will seek out our venue as a performance space in order to gain exposure both within and beyond their home communities. As much as it is our goal to be a center for artists of diverse cultural communities, we also want to function as a harmonious "community of artists."
Big Road in Chelsea recognizes that every community in the culturally diverse city of New York possesses a rich and distinctive musical tradition that typically finds expression in local community centers, houses of worship, backyards, living rooms, parks and on the very streets of the city. The performers are community members who may perform recreationally, at religious services, and/or professionally—or in any combination of these contexts. Big Road in Chelsea has been established with the goal of providing a venue where these distinct communities—including performers and listener-participants alike—can come together to share with each other the collective multicultural abundance that is unique to our global crossroads. A large hall and volunteer staff facilitates a policy whereby only a modest contribution is requested—but no one will be turned away for lack of funds--and artists are able to receive fair compensation.
Artists from all acoustic and low-to-moderately amplified musical genres are encouraged to contact Big Road in Chelsea about appearing.
“Big Road Blues” was recorded in 1928 by the great Mississippi bluesman Tommy Johnson. In the song, he sings,
“Lord, the sun gonna shine in my backdoor, someday.
Hear me talkin', pretty momma.
Lord, the sun gonna shine in my backdoor, someday;
A wind gonna change and blow my blues away.”
He also sings,
“Lord, I ain't goin' down this big road by myself.
Hear me talkin', pretty momma.
Lord, I ain't goin' down this big road by myself;
If I don't carry you, gonna carry somebody else.”
In this song, the “Big Road” represented a change, a new beginning, the opportunity for a better quality of life. It can likewise be viewed as a confident, optimistic and empowering metaphor for overcoming adversity during the course of one’s life—the “road of life”—but the period when this song was written was also a time of extensive migration in the African-American community. The "big roads" were real. People were not only traveling across the southern U.S. to find economic opportunity, they were leaving the south in overwhelming numbers to break away from the oppressive conditions to which they were subjected. They traveled alone when they had to, but they also went with friends and/or families--often extended--forming units and communities of mutual support.
While that is the immediate significance of the “Big Road” in Johnson’s song, the notion of the “Big Road,” both literal and metaphorical, can be applied on an even grander scale. It is not an exaggeration to consider all of human history a journey on the “Big Road.” Our common migration started millennia ago in Africa, and spread out across innumerable “Big Roads,” ultimately into every habitable corner of the planet. Some of these, like the “Silk Road,” have names that we specifically associate with the sharing and exchanging of ideas, lifestyles, and heredity. In truth, though, all of the “Big Roads” have been the arteries that nourished and facilitated these processes.
And here we find ourselves in New York, a place that has become a nexus into which the “Big Roads” of the world have brought arguably the greatest intermingling of peoples and cultures this shrinking blue-green globe has ever experienced. The goal of “Big Road in Chelsea” is to explore and share that multifaceted bounty as expressed in music and related arts (dance, theater, etc.). That’s a tall order, for sure, and we’re in the "baby step” stage on this particular “Big Road,” but we’re going to see where the journey takes us, and we want to thank you all for sharing in its birth.