NEWS

Folk, rock and faith find 'Common Ground' at Christian coffeehouse

Margaret Smith

It’s Saturday night on Main Street in Fitchburg, and the Common Ground Coffeehouse is bustling with noise, laughter and in the back room, the clack of billiard balls across a pool table.

In the main room, audience members pile onto plush sofas or congregate around tables.

The chatter dies down when Scarlet Fade takes the stage.

They look like the model 1980s hard rock ensemble, with shaggy hair, striped socks, and black vests and eyeliner.

Their sound is tight, powerful, exuberant and no-nonsense, alternately melodic and aggressive as befits a proper power metal band.

They sing about the adolescent experience – of longing, solitude, redemption, fear and hope.

But the music and lyrics are all infused with a common message of faith the band – a brother and sisters, all in their teens – say sustains them through the challenges of growing up.

In addition to their many original tunes, the band’s repertoire includes a few covers, including a revved-up version of The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” played in tribute to a paramedic who saved bass player Ali Hoffman’s life in a medical emergency.

Members of the band – whose name was inspired by a passage from the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament of the Bible – said their music’s message of faith is one they plan to take with them through all their travels in life.

The audience responds like any audience at any high-powered rock concert – with enthusiastic clapping, cheering and hooting.

At intermission, a tiny girl in braids makes the rounds with an enormous ceramic coffee cup to collect a free-will offering.

At Common Ground, it’s all about high-octane entertainment, but it’s also about providing a bit of sanctuary in a busy urban area.

And, while it’s a faith-based endeavor, it’s a place where those of many faiths – and those with no particular faith – come to find a safe place to socialize, listen to music and have fun.

Common Ground Christian Coffeehouse opened its doors about two years ago, said Tara Lappas of neighboring Leominster, who runs the coffeehouse with her husband, Ted, and their partner, Jean Rogers, also of Leominster.

In addition to hosting live entertainment, the coffee house is also a center of ministry services and offers to support to people and families in crisis, said Lappas. “We have people struggling, who have loved ones dealing with drugs and alcohol, any situation.” “We provide support for them and their families and healthy ways to cope.”