Club Helsinki furthers Hudson renaissance (videos)
THE opening of an upscale music venue, bar and restaurant promises to bring renewed vitality to a river city that struggles to attract and retain businesses even in good economic times.
Hudson, a distressed city, nevertheless, continues its renaissance with Club. Saturday, the venue will host a rock ‘n’ roll benefit show for WGXC Community Radio for Hudson-Catskill listeners, with three bands scheduled to take the stage.
The 1840s sash and blind company on Columbia Street has been renovated and transformed in the past four and one half years into a multi-use, re-purposed - and absolutely gorgeous - place to gather, dine, dance and listen to a variety of musical talent.
The partners — Deborah McDowell, Marc Schafler and Cameron Melville — have retained the original structure and reused or remade components to fit the ambiance of the former industrial facility.
“Everything in the building is all handmade or recovered materials,” McDowell said in an interview this week. The club name originates with her: Her grandfather managed the Hotel Helsinki in Finland for years and the family kept its home there where she visited in the summer.
Schafler, an architect, said the move to a more permanent home in Hudson brought California producer Melville to the collaboration.
“Our restoration was accomplished using local builders and artists with an eye toward providing the best possible theatrical experiences for both musicians and audience,” he said.
“We thought Hudson, once the fourth largest city in the state, deserved the energetic assistance of renewal,” he said, adding that the building was reworked using green architectural techniques and creative reuse.
McDowell said the partners have yet to set a grand opening date, probably mid-summer, because they’re doing extensive sound tests of the state-of-art equipment. “We’ve had musicians and friends perform already, some to sold-out audiences,” she said. “But, this is a first-class system, and we want it to be perfect.” Continued...
Helsinki Tea Company and Club Helsinki was founded in 1995 as McDowell’s inspiration. She said she was looking to share her love of community, tea, good food and music with the Berkshires where the club originated. Two years later, Columbia County native Schafler joined her and Club Helsinki was launched.
“We then began our history of presenting the finest musicians, activists, poets are lecturers from around the world,” she said.
In addition to the music venue, with stools and comfortable banquettes, there is a sizable bar and a restaurant, featuring sophisticated comfort food, is set to open soon. A ballroom on the second floor offers swing lessons and dances once a month and yoga classes during the week.
Schafler, who is a life-long Columbia County resident, said the partners have been welcomed by the community since the doors opened in the spring. “We love the vibrancy and heterogeneous community here. This is a great place to produce music, since Hudson is close to both Albany and New York City,” he said.
“The arts are a way to keep core cities alive and we’re pleased to be part of that,” he said.
The original Club Helsinki, located in Great Barrington for 15 years, was a mainstay of the Berkshire community there, but the partners closed it in August 2009, and have made a full-time commitment to Hudson.
“We’re here,” Schafler said. McDowell said they hired local workers and craftspeople during the building restoration and all 25 employees and staff are from the area.
“We’re so happy we’ve received so much support,” he said. He said Helsinki’s move to Hudson reflects the same spirit and vision that had such a significant impact on its former location.
“We have a history of creating a shared community of artists, music lovers, poets, who have found a home and refuge among our always intriguing array of staff, supporters and artists,” he said. Continued...
Asked about dress guidelines, McDowell paused a moment to consider, then said simply, “Well, this is a place to celebrate, so we all dress up. So do our employees.”
She said Helsinki Hudson will continue the commitment to contribute to the quality of the community by establishing connections among all the city’s diverse ethnic groups. “We want to reflect the culture and human spirit through our innovative programming.”
WGXC: Hands-On Radio is gearing up to launch on the airwaves by fall, but needs help to raise the remaining funds, McDowell said. She said the bands, because of their love of independent community radio, are traveling to Hudson for the fundraiser.
“These bands are shaking the foundations of independent music and are on one stage. Together. Here,” she said.
The three band to perform are The Weight, Happy Birthday and J.P. Harris and The Tough Choices.
More than 78,000 potential listeners will be able to receive the station’s signal in Green and Columbia counties on 90.7-FM beginning in the fall.
The station also is a community media project that will feature special exhibitions and events, media training for young people and adults, a news blog and a local calendar of events and meetings.
More information, visit www.wgxc.org.
WHAT: Rock ‘n’ Roll benefit for WGXC Radio Station
WHEN: Saturday at 9 p.m. Continued...
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