Gloria Dei’s Obituary: I’m Interviewed by the DMN and offer my opinions

Last week, you may remember how I lamented the passing of Gloria Dei Nights Coffeehouse. Well, today the Dallas Morning News has run a story about it, and I get quoted throughout. (Along with my good friend, Annie Benjamin). You can find it here. (subscription required…) It’s not often that the Morning News covers this kind of story, and covers it well, but I think they did a good job here.

But the great thing about blogs is that if you’re in a news story like this, you can actually add to or correct what you intended to say! Actually, in this case, Christy Robinson did quite a good job on the story. And, she seemed genuinely interested in giving some column inches to other folk music stories in the future. So that’s encouraging. But I thought I’d comment a little more on things I said that didn’t make it into the story. (for sheer lack of space, I’m sure…)

08-04-2005.NGR_04Gloria.GQQ1LG1O3.1

At one point, she asked my why I think coffeehouses have such a hard time “making it.” As you can see in the story, I mentioned the difficulty in getting the word out among competing entertainment options in Dallas. But I want to expand on that point here….

To me, it’s awfully hard to get the word out about coffeehouse venues, when they are usually volunteer groups that rarely have significant advertising budgets. Additionally, they’re also competing against summer musicals, baseball, football, basketball, racing, soccer, Six Flags, the rodeo, museums, movies, and so on, and so on, and so on. I mean, you could make the argument, given the size and breadth of our metropolitan area, that we’re among the most “entertained” folks in the nation. If coffeehouses DO get mentioned at all in the papers, it’s usually because they’ve booked some HUGE act.

She DID use what I then said after that….namely, that coffeehouses, it seems to me, also have to achieve a breakpoint balance of both committed volunteers and committed fans.

Take Uncle Calvin’s, for example. It has both. It has a hugely committed and passionately faithful core of volunteers. It also has an audience that knows where they are, how to find them, and how to find out what show they’re putting on. It takes a long time to achieve this level.

All of this got reduced down in the story to a line or two, but she basically got the gist of it, I suppose.

But there were two more points that didn’t make it. One was subtle, and I didn’t really push it much. It was that the local media itself could do more to encourage and publicize shows at coffeehouses. Like I said, I didn’t push this point much since, paradoxically, she was interviewing me for a story ABOUT a local coffeehouse. (Albeit, an extinct one…)

The final point I made that didn’t make it into the story was a point about how paradoxical it was for Gloria Dei to be closing now, when the Morning News itself had recently criticized music venues for being too loud and too obnoxious. Just a week ago, Thor Christiansen wrote a scathing review of a show at the Gypsy Tea Room. But his critique wasn’t about the act. It was about the FANS. It was also really about the venue itself, and how it doesn’t lend itself to an audience who actually LISTENS to a singer-songwriter. And singer-songwriters are the kind of folks that the GTR is booking a lot of the time.

In response to Thor’s review, my good friend Michael Terry, one of the driving forces behind the great Uncle Calvin’s, wrote in to the letters to the editor about the whole issue. (scroll down until you find “For louts, sounds of silence”) In case, you can’t find his comments, his basic point was that when this happens, much of the blame can be laid on how the evening is set up. If a venue is mainly in business to sell alcohol, then the crowd’s gonna get progressively louder. And, I would add, if they don’t have any place to SIT (as is the case at GTR) then they’ll just mill around like it’s a sorority mixer and not a show.

Michael ended his letter by reminding the readers that music fans have other options. He mentioned coffehouses, he mentioned Poor David’s. And, of course, he also mentioned Uncle Calvin’s.

Anyway, so I referred to all this in my interview for this story. But it didn’t make it in. Such is the editing process, I suppose.

So I guess the final point to make is this:

It’s very sad that Gloria Dei is shutting down, but it’s equally sad that music fans don’t realize that they don’t HAVE to support loud, obnoxious venues, where you can’t hear the acts.

Like the airlines tell you when you fly, “You have a choice of venues when you listen to music.”

It’s just a matter of getting informed enough so that you realize that.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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