Sep 23, 2019
In the days before Prohibition, the Sebastopol Methodist Church was burned down, twice, for its stand back then on temperance. Rebuilt to its present form in 1916, the church interior features “The Dome,” which will host a Harvest of MusicSunday, October 13 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The concert brings together a dozen musicians to let them open up now without restraint.
“The Dome” is an acoustic feature of the architecture of the church building at 500 North Main Street, on a hill overlooking downtown Sebastopol where Highway 116 turns westward toward the Russian River area. It is built under a rotunda with curving rows of seats designed to create an open view and sound. Performers will include Nancy Berger, Gail Bowers, Cheri Buonaguidi, Mary Cornett, Oli Fraenkel, Jim Johnson, Maury Manseau, Michael Ost, Celeste Ray, Mark Reed, India Wade, and Rob Wegner. All previously have played at the church, but in ways often muted by traditional services. All noticed that the acoustics of The Dome resonated in a way that invited something less reserved, according to music director Jim Johnson.
The idea of the October 13 concert is to let them go on their own repertoires, Johnson said, with the music drawn from Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen, John Coltrane, Linda Ronstadt, Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Great American Songbook, original compositions; and Johann Sebastian Bach through the church’s 108-pipe 1916 organ. Instruments will include guitars, brass, drums, piano, dulcimer, voice, and that 1916 organ.
Johnson said the October 13 program returns to a period after the middle of the last century in which churches unlocked their musical presentations. In the last decade of his life, from 1965-1973, Duke Ellington composed three concerts that were premiered at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, and Westminster Abbey in London. Vince Guaraldi, who recorded the music for 15 “Peanuts” TV specials based on the cartoons of Santa Rosa artist Charles Schulz, played a similar concert that preceded Ellington’s at Grace Cathedral. There’s a “Jazz Church” in New York City’s midtown, St. Peter’s, with weekly noontime concerts every Wednesday and “jazz vespers” on Sunday evenings. The Saint John Coltrane Church in San Francisco conducts its entire service around the music of the late saxophonist.
The Dome in Sebastopol, Johnson said, also returns to a multi-purpose use of a building’s interior from an earlier period in U.S. history. The acoustic space of The Dome derives from the “Akron Plan,” uniform architectural patterns originating from Akron, Ohio used in the late 1800s and early 1900s in a period in which thousands of churches were built across the U.S. They typically featured seating in a modified horseshoe and balcony, under a central rotunda, with the rotunda creating an interior dome, as in Sebastopol.
The Akron approach departed from boxy rectangular buildings with seats in straight rows and was intended to create a less-rigid space in which all could see and hear, as building interiors were multi-purposed as auditoriums, social centers, and for education. Several standardized designs were available, adaptable to a variety of decorative styles, as the “Spanish” look of the Sebastopol building with its “Moorish” bell tower.
Admission to the concert is free, with a $10 donation for music programs encouraged. Parking is free behind the church and on adjoining avenues.
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