On the bitterly cold winter night of Patty Griffin’s fifth record release – the acclaimed Children Running Through – devoted fans huddled together outside the Angel Orensanz Center for a chance to see Griffin perform songs from the album for the first time. The historic converted synagogue’s neo-gothic arches were lit with the warm glow of candlelight as Griffin’s singular voice filled the room, accompanied by new band members and longtime players alike. A special treat on some songs was the addition of legendary keyboardist Ian McLagan (Small Faces, The Rolling Stones) – who appeared for this night only – and a 5-piece string section.
Originally from Maine, and now a resident of Austin, Texas, Patty Griffin has had a tremendous influence across all genres of music. After her sparse and acoustic 1996 debut, Living With Ghosts, artists began covering Griffin’s songs immediately. Among the many artists who’ve recorded her songs since are the Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler, and Emmylou Harris.
The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts was established in 1992 and in a short period of time has affirmed itself as a strong anchor of the visual and performing arts in New York City. The Center itself is a neo-gothic building, which was designed as a synagogue in 1849 by Berlin architect Alexander Seltzer. He drew inspiration for his design from the cathedral of Cologne and the German romantic movement of Heinrich Heine and Beethoven. Sculptor Angel Orensanz bought this venerable structure in 1986, first for use as his own studio, and then to make it again a beacon of education and culture in the city of New York.