As live musical performances gradually make their way back into our post-vaccine world, a new local concert series could become a staple this summer.
Joyful Noise on the Green — which launched at the end of May — takes place roughly every other Saturday through October on the lawn of the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Walnut Hills.
It is the brainchild of church employees Reverend Jason Oden, also known as Espresso Priest on Instagram, and Brianna Kelly, a local musician. The music series is not quite what you might expect from a religious institution, though.
Part of Rev. Oden’s role is to bring new life and ideas to a diminishing congregation. After he took his job at the church last fall, he began meeting with Kelly, whom he knew from working together at another parish, to discuss whether she’d want to bring her music leadership skills to Church of the Advent.
“This church has this historic presence, it’s been going on for 175 years, and there’s like 20 people coming,” says Rev. Oden. “Advent has always been open to bringing in artists and cultivating art and giving back to the community and being a place where people can experience community.”
Kelly is now the church’s minister of liturgy, music and arts. And, drawing on her years in the local music scene, she’s brought a fresh perspective to the concept of hosting concerts.
“I was really inspired by the way that people were creative throughout COVID, about being able to gather safely and in spaces that are outside of traditional bars and venues,” she says.
Some people’s personal experiences or conservative upbringings may lead them to believe a church concert is a man with gelled hair emphatically playing major chords on the acoustic guitar. But these shows are nothing like that, Kelly and Rev. Oden say.
“It’s kind of a blank slate here,” Kelly says. “(We realized) we could just submit a budget for creative, fun stuff and see if the ministry approves it, and they have.”
The lineup of artists is rich with talented Cincinnati musicians plus those from nearby states, all offering sounds that extend far beyond cookie-cutter chapel music. Genres include Singer-Songwriter, Indie Folk, Pop, Hip Hop and, yes, Christian. Although the shows follow a 5 p.m. service and a 6 p.m. community dinner, there’s not necessarily a connection between the events, and there’s certainly no obligation to participate in the more spiritual aspects.
“The concert is not an extension of the church service,” says Church of the Advent communications director Matt Latchaw. “It’s just another way to love our neighborhood and love artists who...shape the culture and speak to something deeper than just everyday life.”
With its mission to create opportunities for Cincinnati artists to perform and be cared for in a space that is free and open to anyone, Joyful Noise on the Green reflects an intentionality that is missing in some live music settings. Before the pandemic, there were a lot of free shows around the city, but many were centered around alcohol and late hours. Things are a little different with Joyful Noise.
“I know a lot of folks that can’t do shows at like 11 p.m. or would really like to bring their family,” Kelly says. “Or people who are pursuing sobriety and just playing in the same few bars every night, which is hard — especially when part of your payment is having free drinks thrown at you.”
But with Joyful Noise, no portion of artist payment will be dealt in beer. Kelly is emphatic about treating the performers well, and part of the secured budget will allow them to fairly pay musicians. Kelly even has set up a green room inside the church, furnished with plants and vintage orange couches passed down from her family.
“I just want everything to feel really cozy and cared for,” Kelly says. “(To) create a space that feels like we’re here to listen and really absorb art and be elevated by it.”
The first show in the series happened May 29, featuring Indie singer-songwriter Cory Pavlinac, performing as Zoo, and husband-and-wife Lo-Fi duo Turtledoves. Despite the unseasonably cool weather, people sat scattered across the lawn on blankets and chairs. The performers played on a cobblestone stage tucked under a tree. A white cascading set piece by local artist Lizzy DuQuette stood behind them. The crowd sat peaceful and enthralled, even as a handful of kids happily galloped around. Latchaw ran sound, Kelly hosted and Rev. Oden made coffee and chatted with the crowd. If the first concert was any indication, Joyful Noise on the Green is manifesting everything it wants to be.
At the moment, Joyful Noise on the Green is booked through the beginning of August, but will ultimately run through the end of October. Music is always 7-9 p.m. on the lawn, or masked and distanced inside if it rains.
Music lovers can ensure seating by registering for free on Eventbrite, and anyone may attend the 6 p.m. dinner provided in partnership with La Soupe ahead of the performances.
The current lineup includes:
- A community hymn/song share on June 12;
- Brianna Kelly, Chorusing and Small Sur on June 19;
- Patterns of Chaos and another band TBD on July 10;
- Rae Fisher and Mull Graham on July 24;
- and Brooklynn Rae and Michael-Andrew Spalding on Aug. 7.
More acts will be announced soon.
The church hopes to continue the public music program, and it’s currently their main focus.
“I think that the church has a rich history of supporting the arts,” Latchaw says. “I hope that the (concerts are) like a way to support artists again, because again art speaks to a deeper part of the human experience that I think is important.”
On weeks where there isn’t a band scheduled, they say they plan to host other Saturday evening community events, like movies and game nights.
Church of the Advent is located at 2366 Kemper Lane, Walnut Hills. For more on Joyful Noise on the Green and to see the rest of the lineup as it’s announced, visit adventcincy.org/joyful-noise.