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Robin Hirsch, former Cornelia Street Cafe owner, is now a crooner himself

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Who knew? Apparently not even he did.

Robin Hirsch can sing.

The former impresario of the Cornelia Street Cafe showed off his pipes Tuesday evening in the St. John’s in the Village Church’s Revelation Gallery space on Waverly Place.

Hirsch ran the Cornelia Street Cafe for forty-one-and-a-half years until he was forced to close it in 2018 due to rising rent. The Greenwich Village cafe was renowned for its basement performance space, where singer/songwriters played to appreciative crowds.

Ironically, Hirsch himself was not encouraged to sing as a child growing up — in fact, just the opposite.

“I was told at a very early age to shut my mouth if I was going to sing,” he said, in remarks before his gig.

“I lost my virginity here at 78,” he mused of the St. John’s in the Village gallery.

Following the Cornelia Street Cafe’s closing, Hirsch did a number of readings onstage. He recounted that several friends had told him he had a nice voice. One thing led to another, and he gave singing a try.

“I’ve been studying singing for the last year and a half. I have now sung three songs in this space,” he said, before launching into a fourth.

The Village Sun video clip of his performance is admittedly not the greatest, in terms of catching Hirsch’s lyrics. But you can definitely get a sense of his vocal tone and phrasing, which are both pretty good.

Village pianist Hannah Reimann was one of those nurturing friends who encouraged Hirsch to go for it and try crooning tunes. She had been leading a monthly performance and poetry salon — a sort of post-Cornelia Street Cafe — in the Waverly Place gallery prior to the pandemic. It then went on hiatus during the health crisis and has now started back up again.

Also at Tuesday’s event, Reimann played Astor Piazzolla’s piano solo “Adios Nonino” on grand piano — a tour-de-force performance — as Annika Rhea, wearing a bodysuit, painted with her limbs and torso while dancing on a floor canvas in a piece called “Body Medium.”


  1. K K October 21, 2021

    I’m not surprised to find out that Robin and I have this in common from our childhoods. My mother — a singer — when I tried to imitate the high note in “Bali Hai,” the song from “South Pacific” that was playing on the record player when I was a young child, said to me: “You can’t sing on key — you take after your father!” From that moment on, I was afraid to make a sound. I lipsynced through hymns at prayers in high school. It was an awful block. But I made a discovery — if I play a character — for example, imitating my mother, who was doing her own cabaret show at Don’t Tell Mama — I can sing on key — because it’s not me. So my advice to Robin: Pretend you’re in a Brecht play — you’ll be great!

    • Robin Robin October 23, 2021

      Ta ever so!
      And thanks for the Brecht reference
      PS. Do I know you?

      • K K November 7, 2021

        I should hope so! It hasn’t been that long! Chez Cornelia, your Tapping into NY, What were the ‘60s Really Like? Ghost City Cabaret G-host! “K” aka Kathryn Adisman

  2. Ellen Mandel Ellen Mandel October 20, 2021

    Bravo, Robin!!!! Great song and great singing!!!!❤️

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