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 niece, Katie Halper, has 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," 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 Katie 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." 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.
Here are two videos featuring Ricky that he, Myriam Valle and I recorded back in October, 2001, on Ralph Litwin's "Horses Sing None of It" cable TV show (Ricky is the distinguished-looking fellow with silver hair on the right side of the screen):
Bad Luck Blues played by Big Road Blues.mp4
Big Road Blues plays Big Road Blues.mp4
Here is a link to "Ricky Eisenberg: a celebration of life," a Facebook page that his family curates
Notice of Big Road in Chelsea's closing in June, 2014
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]):
Elevator Access Food Available Space to Dance!
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
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.
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