Music and history at Harvard Square: Club Passim

There’s the Peabody Museum of Archaeology, Memorial Hall at Harvard, the Longfellow House, where George Washington had his headquarters in 1775. There’s First Parish Church, the historic houses along Tory Row, the route of Paul Revere’s Ride, John F. Kennedy park, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Harvard Yard, and all sorts of unassuming buildings and big memorials, sites of meetings, demonstrations, and the quiet day to day life that makes up the stuff of history woven into the fabric of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One of those unassuming places where history has happened and it still being made is Club Passim.

It is at 47 Palmer Street (and was once called Club 47), just across the way from part of the Harvard Coop and just a few steps below street level, just a few steps from the center ofFor a bit more than fifty years, it’s been the place where many of the most original, creative, and thoughtful singers and songwriters in the United States and from other parts of the world have come to share their music. Joan Baez got her start at Passim. When Carolyn Hester came back to play the club a few years ago, they showed her a poster listing a concert she’d given there in the 1960s. Newly arrived from New Orleans, a young Chris Smither came to a gig and saw his future unfold. Tom Rush, Peter Rowan, Taj Mahal, Bukka White, and Doc Watson brought their versions of blues, bluegrass, and folk to the stage at Passim.

It’s no historical artifact, though. A small room where listeners really get to see and hear the artists at work, it is an esteemed place to play among musicians: both staff and audience understand how to listen. It is a place where top musicians regularly come to play still , among them in recent times Patty Larkin, Tish Hinojosa, Ellis Paul, Mark Erelli, Matt and Shannon Heaton, and Hanneke Cassel.

Over the years, a music school, a program to award grants to musicians, and participation in other sorts of musical collaborations have been added to the work of The Passim Center (which is a non profit organization that could use your support, if you are so inclined).

At the heart of it all, though, it is still the singer, the listener, and the song.

You may also enjoy this story about
a concert at Passim on a winter’s night — the one where that third photograph was taken, in fact.

Photograph of Hanneke Cassel (top) courtesy of the artist
Photograph of Club 47 plaque (center) courtesy of Club Passim
Photograph of Matt and Shannon Heaton (bottom) by Kerry Dexte

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