On an early summer night in 1974, at the home of Barbara Melcher in Orleans, MA, a small group of friends were gathered for dinner. Among them were Karie Miller and musician George Gritzbach. The topic of conversation came around to George's music career. Karie commented that George did a lot of traveling off-cape to perform, and that it was too bad there wasn't a local venue for acoustic music. Barbara and David Park, minister of the local Unitarian/Universalist Church, had casually talked about the possibility of opening a coffeehouse at the church in Brewster, and now the idea had come up again. David suggested establishing a coffeehouse at the "Chapel in the Pines" in Eastham. (When the Unitarian and Universalist churches merged many years before, the newly formed congregation used the larger Unitarian meetinghouse in Brewster, and the small Universalist building in Eastham remained, for the most part, unused.) The idea was tossed around between the friends gathered there, enthusiasm grew, and the seeds of First Encounter Coffeehouse were sown.
Within two weeks, a core of five or six people prepared the building, made posters, and presented their first concert on June 28, 1974. Gritzbach shared the bill with Provincetown musician Ruth Roberts, and the response was overwhelming; a crowd of just over 200 people squeezed into the small chapel for the concert. Over the summer, the volunteer staff opened the coffeehouse doors every Friday night with entertainment being provided by local Cape Cod musicians.
By the time winter arrived, the popularity of First Encounter's candlelit concerts grew and the staff decided to open on Friday and Saturday night, and performers throughout New England were featured. Within the year, the coffeehouse became part of the circuit for performers from around the country.
After several years, First Encounter was confronted with the possibility of losing use of the building it had come to call home. Due to its limited amount of use, the church
decided to consider selling the chapel. During the process, a small group of people in the Unitarian/Universalist congregation formed a U/U fellowship and eventually purchased the building, realizing one of their objectives, which was to ensure that First Encounter would be able to continue at the chapel.
Since then, the coffeehouse has survived the ups and downs in the folk music arena and has continued to provide a listening venue where people can hear the best of acoustic music. A thank you is in order for the many dedicated volunteers who have helped produce the concerts, and of course for the audiences who have shown their support over the years.
Please join us this fall and experience the magic of First Encounter as we celebrate our 40th year!
Our fearless leader!
Karie Miller. We love her!