Since 1977, Bargemusic has presented chamber music in an unlikely and startlingly beautiful venue—a floating barge at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Both established and emerging musicians perform at Bargemusic on a small stage with the dramatic backdrop of the East River and lower Manhattan skyline.

From its inception, Bargemusic has been committed to attracting local audiences and enhancing the cultural life of New York by offering frequent, year-round performances of chamber music in a fittingly intimate setting—the type of setting in which chamber music is meant to be heard. To make that unique musical experience available to as many people as possible, Bargemusic presents 220 chamber music concerts annually—four days a week, 52 weeks a year—and offers free tickets to a variety of groups every week, plus a monthly free concert open to the community.

Founder Olga Bloom was 57 years old in 1976 when she gave up her career as a violinist and violist to create Bargemusic. For her “floating concert hall,” she chose a 100-foot steel barge that had been built in 1899 and had served much of the last century as a working vessel in the New York harbor, delivering hand-loaded sacks of coffee for the Erie Lackawanna railroad. Back then the barge was a somber railroad green; now it is painted white, and the last vestige of its prior life hauling coffee is the “EL 375” embossed in the diamond plate steel deck facing the East River.

Olga renovated the barge herself, together with her brother, his wife and preschool daughter, and a violin student of Olga’s. Olga recalls:

“In Averne, a borderline community between Nassau County and Queens, a hospitable boatyard provided us with space and helpful tutelage by experienced waterfront dwellers. We depended on our intuition and a length of string for taking measurements. We solved the problem of achieving good acoustics by the inspiration found in the resonant interior of a violin, and in the practical advice that we visit a maritime scrap yard on Staten Island. The proprietor there, Mr. John Witte, offered a huge supply of paneling, mahogany stripping, and cherry wood benches retired from duty on the original Staten Island ferry The American Legion. For a year and a half I made weekly trips from the scrap yard with materials weighing down my VW Beetle until it almost scraped the ground. En route, truck drivers shouted to me, ‘Yo! Mama.’

“Captain Hearnley, my neighbor in the Averne boatyard and resident owner of a very small red towboat, was a sensible man. He wore a white cap and always knew what lay underwater. He was the first to suggest the site which we now occupy. When Peter Stanford, who presided over the Maritime Museum at Fulton Ferry Landing, invited us to moor here, Captain Hearnley volunteered to tow us to our new life. It took most of the day to round the coast of Brooklyn because his boat The Wanderer was so small and we were so heavy.

“Today our cargo is beautiful music. Our audience and supporters are the good, brave, strong towboats pulling us along in our destiny—as are the fine artists from all over the world who perform here, and the good, brave, strong captain Mark Peskanov who programs our mystical endeavor.”
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Simeon - 9 Dec 2009