Friday - August 5, 2005
Chester's Culture Clubs
Struggling City inspires vibrant arts and cultural community
by Jean Ignatuk
In what used to be an
abandoned building with no windows and a solid inch of
pigeon excrement caked to the floor, a grand piano now
sits under spotlights. Folding chairs await an audience
on brand-new hardwood floors at Chester's new live music
venue, the André Café Acoustique at the
corner of 5th Street and Edgmont Ave.
The music venue is just
one of several cultural venues that are springing to
life in the Chester community. This struggling city is
now home to an arts complex, a university art gallery,
free jazz concerts and, this weekend, artists will
perform in the Across Colors Cultural Festival.
*** Live Music at
the André Café Acoustique ***
André Café owner and jazz pianist Paul Fejko did most of the remodeling himself after 26 dump truck-loads of debris were removed from the space and the building's structure, which dates back to the 1840's was checked for soundness.
The city approached Fejko in 2000 with the idea of saving the historic building and using it to develop an artistic community in Chester.
Over the past couple
of months, Fejko and Managing Director Donald Newton
have staged several successful live performances,
charging only $5 for a ticket - for now, while people
are still getting used to the idea of live music in
|Don Newton runs the André Café Acoustique with Paul Fejko, left, piano with Marion Salaam - saxophone, Vernon Lewis - bass and Tony 'Stickman' Wyatt - drums. André Café Acoustique is a new venue for live music, ranging from jazz and gospel to 'holy hip hop'. Photo by Robert Gorecki - Delco Times Staff.||"People are surprised," Newton said. "They say 'What? A Café? No. That ain't happening." "We do believe, once you get in here, hear the music, feel the space, it'll bring you back," Newton said.|
Live performances over
the past several weeks were given by gospel vocalist
Susan Coe; jazz trio Tony Wyatt, Adam Faulk
and Vernon Lewis; Swedish fiddler Alicia Bjornsdotter Abrams;
classical flute and guitar duo Veronica Mascaro and
William Newman; bagpiper Rufus Harley; and mimes
and Micha Bertin. "The entertainment is quite diverse,"
With seating for only 45 people, the setting is intimate enough to allow Newton to cater the events with his own home-cooked treats.
Ticket prices do not cover the venue's expenses, and funding for the venture thus far has come from Fejko's back pocket. "I don't think anyone's in the arts for the money," Fejko said. Fejko is seeking funding for his non-profit organization, The Chester performing Arts Project, which was formed to promote and encourage the performing arts in Chester and bring life back into the community as a whole.
"Part of what we're trying to do is to get people to feel safe out on the street," Fejko said. "I see the arts as a way to uplift, heal, motivate and raise consciousness in a community," Newton said.
A spark of cultural
resurgence was felt on Friday, June 17, when bagpiper
Rufus Harley was performing at the André Café Acoustique
People were walking
back and forth between the events. "There was activity
on the street," Newton said.