Sunday Street is changing its address. The radio show of the same name can still be found at 90.1 FM, WUSB. But the concert series that for more than a decade showcased top folk artists has a new home.
Charlie Backfish, whose radio show has anchored Sunday mornings on WUSB since 1979, is the host and driving force of the series. He’s played and interviewed each artist who’s performed, until now, at the University Café on the Stony Brook campus.
This weekend, Sunday Street moves, yes, just down the street, to the Gillespie Room inside the Carriage Museum on the south side of the Long Island Museum campus.
Leading off at the new venue is Sloan Wainwright of the musical clan famously including brother Loudon III, nephew Rufus and nieces Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche. Known for dramatic vocal interpretations of her songs as well as those of Bob Dylan and Nick Drake, among others, Wainwright is equally at home in styles ranging from pop and folk to jazz and blues. Starting at 3 p.m. Sunday, expect to hear selections from her latest of seven albums, “Rediscovery,” accompanied by guitarist Stephen Murphy.
Though Sunday Street’s move was prompted by Stony Brook University’s planned renovation of its Student Union, Backfish says he’s excited about the change of scenery. “I’m very pleased to be here,” he says, “and I think our audience will be, too.”
For one thing, the Gillespie Room boasts a raised stage, which improves sightlines, and a roomier one than the cafe’s. But the biggest bonus may be the Steinway grand piano. “At the cafe, we could only accommodate an electronic keyboard,” Backfish says. Already he’s heard from two musicians who relish playing a Steinway: Willie Nile, next up on Jan. 31, and John Gorka, April 17, as the starting time moves to 5 p.m. “When the weather gets better, the later time gives people a chance to enjoy the outdoors before coming to our concert,” says Backfish.
As at the cafe, beer, wine and cider will be available, but seating for 100 will be auditorium, rather than cabaret-style.
Highlighting each Sunday Street season is the Dylan birthday concert with an array of artists saluting the master. This year’s event, May 21, coincides with his 75th birthday (three days later) and the opening of the museum’s summer exhibition, “Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience,” featuring artifacts from Newport to Woodstock and, more recently, Bonnaroo to Coachella.
The addition of Sunday Street to LIM’s repertoire — North Shore Pro Musica and a Latin series also play the Gillespie, plus a new outdoor series resumes this spring — is part of director Neil Watson’s initiative to bring more music back to the museum. It was the site of the annual Fiddle and Folk Festival for a decade, co-hosted by Backfish. Once, when rain threatened a washout, he moved it into the Gillespie Room.
“The acoustics were great,” he recalls.