Tag Archive | "Canio’s"

Canio’s Building on Market

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The Main Street building that is home to Canio’s Books has recently been put on the market for $2.9 million.

Martha Siegler, who owns the 4,500-square-foot building, confirmed it was listed but did not wish to comment further. The building has three apartments and over 800 square feet of storefront retail space, which has been the home of Canio’s Books for 35 years.

Kathryn Szoka, who has run the bookstore with Maryanne Calandrille since 1999, said on Tuesday evening that it was a “very new situation,” adding she had “just found out” the building was on the market.

She and her partner have recently signed a lease, she said, but Ms. Szoka did not wish to discuss the details of it.

“We are hopeful and we’re committed to being in Sag Harbor,” Ms. Szoka said. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the bookstore, which was opened by Canio Pavone in 1980.

“We’re looking forward to this 35th anniversary and we have good hopes going forward,” she added. In celebration of this jubilee, Canio’s will be putting on many different activities, including resurrecting the “Moby Dick” reading marathon this year.

A Man is Drawn to the Blues

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Jake Lear performs the blues for an enthusiastic passerby on Beale Street, Memphis.

Jake Lear performs the blues for an enthusiastic passerby on Beale Street, Memphis.

By Annette Hinkle

Jake Lear is an impressive guitar player who, despite the fact he was raised in Vermont, Sag Harbor and East Hampton, has a love of (and a talent for) blues and roots music from the Mississippi Delta.

It’s an incongruity that Mr. Lear can readily explain.

“My parents were big music fans,” says Mr. Lear. “I started listening to Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf records around the house — also a little bit of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.”

“It’s what I’ve gravitated toward since I was young,” adds Mr. Lear who picked up his father’s acoustic guitar in 9th grade and within a year, had graduated to electric.

A largely self-taught musician, when he was young, Mr. Lear took some lessons from Sag Harbor-based musician Jim Turner, but perhaps the most defining moment in his musical career can be traced to a single night at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.

It was Mr. Lear’s 13th birthday.

“Buddy Guy was playing and my dad took me there,” he says. “He had just released his album ‘Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,’ right before this. He was driving around in a van and played the Talkhouse before it was renovated. It was really small in there. We were so close. He put his drink on our table and played for three hours.”

“That night it felt like everyone was being entertained,” says Mr. Lear. “That made a huge impression.”

This Friday, it will be Mr. Lear’s turn to entertain. To that end, he will be performing a post-Thanksgiving concert at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor. It’s a gig that came about thanks to another love of Mr. Lear’s — books.

“I read a lot and I was in there and saw a sign that said they had classes on Dante,” recalls Mr. Lear. “We had been in Italy a bunch of times and my wife was influenced by Michelangelo. It was winter and I thought it was something to do.”

Canio Pavone, the founder of Canio’s Books, taught the course, which was all about Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”

“It was awesome. I loved it and that’s how I ended up there,” adds Mr. Lear. “Canio’s is a great place with super nice owners. I asked if they wanted me to do an in-store performance. That’s how I ended up there.”

It’s been an interesting journey for Mr. Lear and his wife, artist Anna DeMauro. After living in Memphis, Tennessee—epicenter of the blues—for five years, they learned they would soon become parents and decided to move back to the East End to raise their daughter, Lucia, now 19 months old.

“I was doing music full-time and then we decided to move back here,” says Mr. Lear. “All our family was up here. I didn’t quit music, but I’m not doing it professionally now. In Memphis, it was four to five nights a week and some traveling on the road.”

It was also in Memphis that Mr. Lear cut two albums, “Diamonds and Stones,” and “Lost Time Blues” and played regularly for crowds on Beale Street with his band including bass player Carlos Arias and drummer Roy Cunningham.

Mr. Cunningham, who played with blues guitarist and singer Albert King, comes from an illustrious musical family. His younger brother Blair has played drums for the likes of Paul McCartney, the Pretenders and Mick Jagger. Mr. Cunningham’s other brother, Carl, was a drummer too. He died in the 1967 plane crash that also took Otis Redding’s life.

“Roy was a big influence for me,” says Mr. Lear. “He’s passionate about music and performing, and to have someone who’s such a good drummer is amazing. Blues is pretty simple and sometimes it can be hard to find a drummer who wants to play it. Rhythmically he had a sense of it.”

Mr. Lear also drew inspiration for his music from the energy-filled vibe of Memphis itself, the very heart of where the blues originated.

“The scene down there has a lot of heritage,” says Mr. Lear. “The Stax Museum is there, also Sun Records, then there’s the International Blues Society — and the Mississippi Delta is 15 miles away.”

“Mississippi, being hill country, you get music that’s a little more rootsy — almost like one chord blues, more like a country blues,” explains Mr. Lear. “It’s raw in a way, and I had just gotten into it before I went down there. For a lot of players, that’s their thing. In Mississippi you have R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Fred McDowell. That music had a big influence on The Black Keys and they took that influence and brought it to a new audience.”

But it was Beale Street, the home of the blues, where Mr. Lear spent a great deal of time making music while he lived in Memphis. Lined with some of the country’s most famous blues clubs and restaurants, Beale Street also has a number of outdoor venues where local musicians regularly entertain the crowds that descend on Memphis in search of it’s iconic sound.

“There are a lot of international tourists there,” says Mr. Lear. “It’s a thriving scene, though it’s a big stop on the tourist circuit. Beale Street is blocked off for traffic. We played street shows on Fridays and Saturdays.”

“It was a completely relaxed environment. No one was telling us what to do,” he adds. “There is pressure to perform, but it’s casual in a way with a lot of freedom.”

Freedom is what blues is all about, and while Mr. Lear writes original songs and lyrics, he admits that much of the emotion of the music comes through sheer improv.

“The fundamentals of blues are pretty simple, after that it’s feel,” admits Mr. Lear. “In Memphis, I learned a lot of different styles from Roy and all the different musicians on Beale Street.”

Though he’s not making music full-time anymore, Mr. Lear is still driven to be a blues man. In the coming year, he’s planning to do some more songwriting and recording, and of course, performing. That’s good news for Canio’s listeners, who, this Friday, can expect some fine examples of post-turkey electric blues.

“I want to do stuff I don’t normally do,” says Mr. Lear. “I’m going to be playing songs of older blues musicians like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Furry Lewis plus a few of my own.”

Jake Lear performs at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor on Friday, November 28, 2014 at 5 p.m. For more information call (631) 725-4926 or visit caniosbooks.com.

A Three-Pronged Artistic Celebration of Sag Harbor

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'Too Early' by Jean Holabird

‘Too Early’ by Jean Holabird

Canio’s exhibit features artists’ local visions

By Sam Mason-Jones

A trio of local artists will present their visions of Sag Harbor for an upcoming exhibition, “Three Views of Sag Harbor,” that will  premiere with a reception on Saturday, August 30, at Canio’s Books.

The show will feature work from Whitney Hansen, Jean Holabird and Bob Wilson. The three artists differ both in approach and the media they deal in, yet provide a complementary span in celebrating the make-up of Sag Harbor.

Kathryn Szoka of Canio’s has curated the exhibit, with the aim of showcasing Sag Harbor’s artistic talent through wider visual praise of the village.

“Canio’s is literally at the heart of Sag Harbor, and holds celebrating the creative energy of the village central to our focus, whether in literary spheres, the visual arts or other artistic endeavors.” said Ms. Szoka.

“It seemed to be the perfect exhibit to have at the end of the summer season, with Harborfest around the corner, to celebrate Sag Harbor—the trees, the buildings, the people—all a part of what makes the village a unique place on the East End.”

The division of Sag Harbor into “the trees, the buildings, the people” is a pertinent one, as each represents an aspect of the village honed in on by one of the three artists.

Jean Holabird’s series of watercolors concentrates on the village’s many trees, and how they are presented within the context and background of Sag Harbor, whether that be an old home or the Five and Dime. The series follows a long trend of work based around the village from the Manhattan-based artist, whose art had previously been occupied with the city’s recovery following September 11.

Buildings dominated the work of painter Whitney Hansen, who in woodwork found a perfect medium for capturing some of the rough hewn edges of Sag Harbor’s construction. Ms. Hansen’s contributions to “Three Views of Sag Harbor” will bring a warm, tactile dimension to the exhibition.

The people of Sag Harbor dominated the photographs of Bob Wilson, who took a succession of images of the village’s residents sitting on its benches. Fascinated by the everyday platform that the benches of Main Street could provide, Mr. Wilson took to trying to capture a wide scope of different activity.

The idea for the series came to Mr. Wilson very simply on a sunny evening last summer: “I was standing in front of the movie theater on Main Street, where there was a couple sitting on a bench under a tree—it looked like some version of ‘American Gothic’,” said the artist. “I took a picture and the idea of photographing residents of Sag Harbor on its benches grew from there.”

In the following summer months, Mr. Wilson compiled a collection of more than 100 photographs, with varying activities and composition. Noting the wide variety of residents that Sag Harbor produced, he was keen to capture each and every aspect and facet of the village.

“I took a photo of three of the older village guys in their work clothes, just watching the world go by. That’s a cool picture,” said Mr. Wilson of one of his favorite shots. “It was an enjoyable project. It was a lot of fun to capture some of that summer energy.”

In putting the exhibit together, curator Ms. Szoka, who is also a photographer herself, found that the three artists naturally complemented each other, and thus in effect picked themselves.

“I selected the three to work together because I thought they were compatible but did not overlap.” Ms. Szoka said to this end. “I knew each of the artists pretty well, and their work captures an aspect of the village that is very intimate and very charming.”

“Three Views of Sag Harbor” will run at Canio’s Gallery from Friday, August 29, to September 29, with a reception on Saturday, August 30, at 5 p.m. Canio’s Books can be found at 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

A Cash Mob For Canio’s

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By Emily J. Weitz; Photography by Christian McLean

Left: Canio’s owner Maryann Calendrille at last week’s Cash Mob supporting the long time bookstore and gathering place on Sag Harbor’s Main Street. 

At Canio’s Books last Saturday, the narrow passageways between shelves were even more crowded than usual. Shoulder to shoulder people stood, ready to flood the store with a holiday boost. A cash mob is a concept that has spread throughout the country:  community members rally together to support a local business that could use it. Through social media and word of mouth, people spread the word about the time and place of the mob, and then they descend, cash in hand, committed to spending a certain amount (in this case $20) before they leave the store.

Canio’s was selected as the beneficiary of last Saturday’s cash mob because of its importance to the culture of the town. Since its founding in 1980 by Canio Provone, Canio’s has served as a cultural hub as well as an independent book seller.

“When Canio’s first opened it was a different time in Sag Harbor,” said Kathryn Szoka, co-owner of the store. “There were some oases for literature and art but not a great many, and Canio’s became a meeting place for the creative arts.”

Szoka and her partner, Maryann Calendrille, vowed to continue that legacy when they took over the business they loved in 1999. One clear example is their establishment of the Cultural Café a few years ago. The not-for-profit is devoted to bringing educational and cultural offerings to the public.

“We see Canio’s as a community center for creativity and the arts,” Szoka said.

They’ve conducted several six-week series on the environment, where a dozen or so participants gather together in the cozy shop to discuss essays and writings on specific subjects. They use a curriculum designed by Northwest Earth Institute, including a workbook and syllabus. Then the participants take turns leading the sessions.

“The idea is that engagement is a great way to learn,” explains Szoka. “It creates great ownership of the material on everyone’s part.”

Besides the nature series, other offerings from the Cultural Café have included poetry workshops with Mark Doty or essay workshops with David Buchier.

“We’ll have a great Dante workshop in January on the Divine Comedy,” Szoka added, “and Canio is coming out of retirement to teach that. It’s already sold out.”

Szoka promised there would be another later café offering in the New Year. She believes that the Cultural Café further solidifies Canio’s place in the community.


That was the overwhelming sentiment expressed by the throngs at the cash mob on Saturday, as well.

Nick Gazzolo, a North Haven resident and one of the organizers of Saturday’s cash mob, wanted to support Canio’s because of the importance the independent bookseller has to the community.

(Right) Eric Cohen, Hillary Loomis and April Gornik, organizers and participants in last weekend’s Cash Mob at Canio’s in Sag Harbor. 

“This is what makes Sag Harbor a village,” said Gazzolo as he sipped a sparkling apple cider and observed the masses. “Local and independent book sellers. We’ve lost so many bookstores in Sag Harbor—one by one. So a group of friends got together and we said, ‘Let’s do something about it.’”

April Gornik, an active member of Save Sag Harbor and avid Canio’s supporter, was delighted at the turnout.

“I’m here because I love an intelligently run book store,” she said. “Your browsing is not wasted.”

Gazzolo agreed.

“It’s curated,” he said of the collection at Canio’s. “And you therefore have that relationship with a trusted curator. There’s no other book store like this one.”

But even more than the importance of the thoughtful items in the store, Gornik believes that Canio’s is a symbol of community.

“Everybody needs community,” she said, gazing out at the sea of browsers. “Canio’s stands for community. The workshops and events are so cool. I’ve loved this place since I first walked in.”

Gazzolo believes what Canio’s contributes to the sense of community is a needed gathering place.

“It’s the third place,” he said. “It’s the place you can go that isn’t work and isn’t home. You can step out of those roles here.”

In a digital age, when more and more books are being downloaded and read on Kindles and iPads, the practicality of a brick-and-mortar bookstore is as in jeopardy as the practicality of the books themselves. But for a romantic like Gornik, there’s no comparison.

“There’s nothing like the physical satisfaction of a book,” she said.

Hilary Loomis, another one of the organizers of the cash mob event, is married to a longtime editor from Random House, and she spoke of his nostalgia for an era that is slipping away.

“We all know that books and book stores are not faring well in this day and age,” she said.

She believes that Canio’s keeps books alive not just through the sale of the physical objects, but also through the culture surrounding books.

“Think of all the writers and editors in this town,” Loomis said. “Canio’s is a cultural center as well as a book store. Think of the cultural events and readings.”

It’s that cultural outlet that sets Sag Harbor apart, and continues to inspire new generations of creativity.

“What kind of world would it be if everything was downloaded?” asked Gazzolo. “”Where would we discover things? Where would we bump into each other?”

For Szoka and Calendrille, the day felt like a swell of support from the community to which they’ve devoted themselves.

“We were thrilled by the cash mob and grateful for our friends who put it together,” said Szoka. “I think what a lot of people like about Canio’s is the intimate atmosphere, and that all books are hand selected. Every book counts and has a story and allows for the opening of an imagination. It takes a village to make something like Canio’s thrive and we are grateful that the effort is there in our community. The cash mob felt like a warm hug.”


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By David McCabe

Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyce’s epic novel “Ulysses,” traveled across Dublin in one day. To celebrate the novel’s legacy this weekend, however, Sag Harbor residents only need to travel to Canio’s Books, on Main Street.

This Saturday is Bloomsday, the annual event that commemorates June 16, 1904, the day that Bloom undertook his journey — and the local bookseller will be putting on a Joyce-themed event to honor it.

While many Bloomsday parties celebrate with Irish food and drink, the Canio’s crew will do so with fiction. Two authors, Douglas Light and John McCaffrey, will read from stories written in the “Joycean tradition.”

Light is a novelist from New York City who recently released a collection of short stories entitled “Girls In Trouble.” He will be reading from his new novel “Where Night Stops.”

“I felt it would be a great selection for the environment as well as the crowd, and much like ‘Ulysses’ it involves a bar scene,” Light said.

McCaffrey will be reading a creative nonfiction piece that relates to his Irish ancestry. The work deals with the relationship he had with his grandmother — who emigrated from Ireland to Wainscott.

An actor, Mark Singer, will also read passages from “Ulysses” and sing songs inspired by Joyce.

Maryann Calendrille, co-owner of Canio’s, said McCaffrey originally approached her about doing a reading event there on June 16, but not one specifically tied to Joyce.

“The idea of the Bloomsday was an overlay when we got to planning and looked at dates,” she said. “And since it’s a day that stands out in the literary calendar we thought it would be fun to do that.”

“We’re open to new and interesting things, so we thought we’d give it a whirl,” she said.

When Calendrille pointed out that fact out to McCaffrey, he said he and Light, who have known each other for more than 10 years, could give the event a Joycean spin.

While this is the first Bloomsday event at the shop, Calendrille said they have a history of celebrating local writers and important works of literature. In the past, Canio’s has hosted marathon readings of “Moby Dick” and birthday celebrations for Emily Dickinson.

“As much as we like contemporary books,” she said, “we also like celebrating the greats from the past.”

It’s not uncommon, Calendrille said, for community members to come up with ideas for events like this. However, she believes this may be one of the first Bloomsday events in the Hamptons.

“I don’t know that there have been other Bloomsday celebrations out East, so this is kind of an experimental run with it,” Calendrille said.

It will not be Light’s first Bloomsday event, though. He’s attended one before, in New York City.

“It was lots of fun,” he said, “a lot of carousing, a lot of drinking, and a lot of reading from Joyce.”

McCaffrey said that though this event is likely to be a bit more subdued than other Bloomsday parties, he hopes it will pay a fitting tribute to Joyce.

“I don’t exactly know if that fever will come,” he said, “but we certainly will try to carry his torch.”

“Fiction on Bloomsday” begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 16  at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor. Call 725-4926 for details.

Mining the Dark Streets of the ’40s

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By Courtney M. Holbrook

In his 20s, Alan Furst was addicted to mystery novels. He was living with his wife in a Pennsylvania farmhouse at the time, writing poetry. He realized that if he wrote five pages a day for 40 days, he could have his own mystery novel.

In 1983, Furst journeyed on the Danube River as a travel writer for Esquire Magazine. Watching life in a police state started an obsession for the lives of people under totalitarian control.  

In Paris, Furst decided he wanted to read a “panoramic style of novel about 1930’s spy agencies.” He could not find one. Furst realized there was “gold in the street and it was all for me.”

All these experiences led to the publication of Furst’s first historical spy thriller set in the 1930s, “Night Solders.” The intellectual yearning to write that “particular novel” set him up to become one of the premier thriller novelists working today, with 15 bestselling page-turners.

Furst’s most recent novel, “Spies of the Balkans,” was recently released in trade paperback. The author will give a reading from his new book at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor on Saturday, July 9 at 6 p.m. 

“Spies of the Balkans” is a novel that combines the familiar with the unexpected. Set in 1940s Greece — which differs from Furst’s past settings in Western or Eastern Europe — the hero, Constantine “Costa” Zannis, is a police official in charge of political cases. As Italy attempts to invade, and Hitler swarms around Europe, Zannis can only watch as the catastrophe of a Nazi invasion approaches. Throughout, spies are everywhere; no one is safe.

“I wanted to write a novel about the Balkans, so I just started some outline of what I wanted,” Furst said. “And once I began, this extraordinary story emerged. I slowly began to understand what happened when Italy invaded and failed.”

It had all the elements of a Greek tragedy — Sophocles meeting Le Carré. Furst examines the destruction of Greek resistance, and the “almost foreordained demise” of Greek independence. At the same time, he keeps a foothold on plot and character, providing his readers with intrigue and a smart hero.

Furst’s own path to literary success was one of search and discovery, similar to that of his characters’ political revelations. After time spent as a poet and travel writer, he decided he wanted to write mystery novels. He had the ideas and the desire, but the writing was still unclear — a voice that needed to be located.

He found that voice in Paris. Furst had already written three of his historical espionage thrillers when he read Camus’ “The Stranger.” It awoke “an excitement” in him — and changed his writing style.

“It was in Europe, reading Camus, that I discovered the ‘existential thriller,’” Furst said. “He’s not typically described as a ‘thriller’ writer, but what is it if not a thriller? [The Stranger] is so spare, it taught me things I can’t quite describe.”

Camus taught Furst to write sparingly; to understand that terror and darkness can be found in the details; that minimalism can frighten more than extensive, unnecessary prose.

Although Furst is a native New Yorker who now lives in Sag Harbor, his time in France and his ability with French language and literature have earned him the title of “European” writer by publishers. This European fascination comes from the experiences of people in World War II, according to Furst.

“I think what Europe experienced in [World War II] is just almost unimaginable to many of us in America,” Furst said. “It’s what comes through in my character, Costa, the idea that he wants to protect people, but there’s just nothing he can do. And you have to think about that — there was nothing anyone could do. You had to worry about what would happen to your wives, daughters, your dog … We don’t face anything really like that here.”

Presently, Furst is working on another novel, which will once again focus around World War II. In his spare time, he reads the writers of the 1920s and ‘30s for pleasure, and nonfiction for research regarding his novels. And so far, he plans to continue waking to write at 7:30 a.m., and writing about the characters and experiences that consume him.

“I’m obsessed by this time period in a way that I have never been obsessed with anything. I can’t imagine it ever going away.”

Music To Celebrate Just Being Together

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Though not observed in this country, Boxing Day, which is celebrated in the U.K and Canada on the day after Christmas, dates back to a time when it was customary for the wealthy to give gifts to employees or people in a lower social class.

Boxing Day is also traditionally when working people are given a little time off to gather with their own friends and families around the holidays. Given how hard most year rounders work to survive on the East End, especially in this economy, it somehow seems appropriate that Kathryn Szoka and Maryann Calendrille, proprietors of Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor, have arranged for a Boxing Day concert at their shop featuring musicians Cynthia Post and Roy Lechich.

“I think of Boxing Day as an opportunity to play after all the work and frenzy and preparations for the big Christmas holiday are done,” notes Calendrille, an old friend of Cynthia and Roy’s. “That’s when the servants, staff — and yes, us shop girls — get to relax a bit and party.”

Cynthia and Roy live in Branford, Conn. and are partners both in music and in life. On stage, they are known collectively as The Elsewhere Band. Cynthia, a pianist, is also a singer and songwriter. As a musician, Roy is adept at a number of instruments, including guitar and fiddle.

The duo perform at Canio’s on Boxing Day, this Friday, December 26 at 6 p.m. It would seem that Cynthia and Roy’s music fits the bill, given that, as a venue, Canio’s is all about friends getting together to share a few tunes and good times. In fact, that was how Cynthia and Roy first met more than two decades ago when they were students at Southampton College.

“I was always involved in music,” explains Roy. “I started violin at age five and studied until I was 13 or 14, then I did the teenage thing and switched to guitar — folk guitar and rock stuff. When I got to Southampton in my suite there were a bunch of musicians to play with. It was a community of students who played. There were always people sitting around and playing.”

While Cynthia was well versed in folk music by the time she arrived at Southampton College, having traveled to many folk festivals, at Southampton, she was exposed to new musical influences like jazz and blues, and even madrigals, a centuries-old style of music, which will be part of the Canio’s Boxing Day program on Friday.

“Before Bach and scales, there was church music in the late middle ages,” says Roy. “There was official music, then there was all this secular music. Madrigals, even though they are related to religion, were songs you could dance to in a field on a sunny day. These were written by composers, including Henry VIII, and written in four part harmonies. The idea was that people get together and if there were 12 of them, they could split up the parts between them.”

“We’re going to sing a couple lively ones we’ve chosen,” adds Cynthia. “They are fun to do and seem to work well with two singers. I might even print up the words for King Henry VIII for the audience. Apparently all these noble people were trained in hunting, dancing, singing and composition so they could pass time with good company.”

Good music with good company seems to be a philosophy for Cynthia and Roy, who will also be performing some Italian folk tunes at Canio’s in a musical nod to Roy’s heritage.

“When I grew up my parents would have friends come over, and at some point after dinner they’d have wine and all sit back and start singing these songs,” says Roy. “After dinner there were all these harmonies going on. A lot of these songs are really old.”

“It’s a similar thing to people getting together today and enjoying singing and playing,” he says.

While they love the old songs, Roy and Cynthia also write and record their own original music and, after years of working together, have found that their talents compliment each other nicely. Cynthia excels as a singer and songwriter while Roy fills out the sound musically, playing with arrangements and adding depth to the songs. The couple’s most recent recording is a CD of original work entitled “Cave Drawings” and when asked how she describes their music, Cynthia pauses and considers the question.

“Back in college I would’ve said it was folk or folk rock,” she says. “All the flavors of it are what I grew up knowing —songs by people like Stevie Nicks or Celtic ballads, so I’ve often found it difficult to say what it is I do. There’s also country and some blues in it.”

“If I had my way, I’d just call it folk rock,” she adds. “It still sounds like the best ways to describe it. It’s melodic and female vocal oriented.”

It also is apparently timeless, and while musical trends have come and gone, Cynthia and Roy have found that, throughout the years, they have always managed to find audiences for their music.

“We always feel there’s a vein of people who enjoy it,” says Cynthia. “We will go through dry spells — clubs change and we lose places. Then we go to a party and play and it’s so nice to feel that people really do love what we’re doing.”

“We’ve played our share of bars where we were competing with sports on TV,” admits Roy.

Lately, however, Cynthia and Roy have found a new venue for making music — one which is reminiscent of their days at Southampton College or the intimate setting of a place like Canio’s.

“The latest and greatest thing for us is the house concert scene,” says Cynthia. “People open up their house or backyard for a night of music and might even have a sound system.”

Though the idea is relatively new in this part of the world, getting together at homes to make music is a tradition that goes back literally centuries. In Nova Scotia, people often gather for Cielidhs (pronounced kaylees) impromptu home concerts to which everyone is invited. A similar music scene has long existed in rural Ireland and other places around the globe.

“I think it’s a spreading idea,” says Roy. “We’ve heard about it for several years. It’s a comfortable idea. You play in a house where you can fit 15 to 20 people, or in a back yard where you can have a few more. In a way, it’s like having a party, but it’s clear that the music is the central thing.”

House concert hosts don’t typically charge an entrance fee, but they will request donations for the musicians and often, the take is split with the house.

“I’m excited about the house concerts,” says Cynthia. “Sometimes you feel like you’re not meeting people. But there’s a real sense of community with them.”

“I think it’s coming around,” says Roy. “The idea is it’s nice to watch a small group perform simple music in a simple way. Just the idea of a handful of people sitting around playing instruments.”

“It’s a better way for honing your skills than playing a bar,” adds Cynthia. “In that intimate situation you want to play your instrument well, sing well and get in touch with your muse.”

“You’re also aware that people are listening for a change,” she says.

Cynthia Post and Roy Lechich’s Boxing Day concert begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 26 at Canio’s Books (290 Main Street, Sag Harbor). Admission is free. Call 725-4926 for more information.


The Freedom Trail: Memoir recalls a movement

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For decades, Southampton’s Bob Zellner has been a champion of civil rights. A speaker on the national circuit, locally, he has worked with members of the Shinnecock Nation, the Eastern Long Island Branch of the NAACP and Southampton’s anti-bias task force, to name a few. 

But perhaps one of the most remarkable things about Bob Zellner is where he comes from. A native son of Alabama, he was one of the first white southerners who dared to get involve in the fight for civil rights in the early 1960s. It was a time in history when just sitting down to talk with a group of black people was enough to get a white boy arrested in Alabama. 

Yet Zellner defied those who sought to intimidate him and in the fall of 1961, became the first white southerner to serve as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a group cofounded by Julian Bond. In the next seven years, Zellner would be arrested 25 times working to improve the situation of blacks in America. Along the way, he met Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and other key figures in the civil rights movement.

Now, on the eve of a presidential election that just might see an African-American taking the highest office in the country,  Zellner is releasing a memoir about growing up in the south and his rejection of values that, as a white southerner, he was expected to embrace.

“I had it in me for a while,” says Zellner on his decision to write the book. “I was keeping a diary on the evolution of the campaign starting a year and a half or so ago in Selma with Obama and Hillary and Bill Clinton, Rahm Emanuel and all the principals of the Democratic side of the election.”

“Obama pointed out in his speech in Selma that ‘My campaign is standing directly on the shoulders of the civil rights movement and this is a sacred spot,’” adds Zellner. “I’m so delighted with what we did 40 or 50 years ago. I’m feeling a lot of good about what we did.”

This Saturday at 6 p.m., Zellner will be at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor (290 Main Street) to read from “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.” The book was written with Constance Curry and includes a foreword by Bond.

Zellner is both amazed and pleased that he has lived to see the day when an African-American is a top candidate for president. Equally thrilling to him is the fact the Democratic party’s other leading contender this year was a woman. When asked how he managed to embrace tolerance growing up in rural Alabama, Zellner responds, “Well, I think part of it was intellectual curiosity. Another part was that my father had been through so much — being raised in a Klan family in Birmingham. In his early ministry he converted from the Klan to a believer in true brotherhood.”

Zellner’s father, James, was a Methodist minister. While working as a missionary in Russia in the 1930s, Zellner formed close friendships with black southerners who were there on missions of their own. When he returned home, he renounced his Klan membership and Zellner’s mother tore up the white robes to make Sunday school shirts for her five sons.

“I think that was one of the things I had great luck about — I was not taught racism at home,” says Zellner. “I think in all parts of the country, if you’re interested in having national, religious and racially ethnic diversity in your life, you have to take steps to make sure it happens or else you’ll live in a monochromatic world.”

“By the time I graduated in 1961 I had made the decision to do what I could to make a difference,” says Zellner who sought out SNCC. “The people in the movement were so inspiring they drew you in to something you knew was going to happen.”