There’s a new venue on the Island for music fans. On Sunday, May 1, the historic Unitarian Universalist Church on upper Main Street, Vineyard Haven, will host the second installment of its Music in the Chapel concert series.
In March, the Unitarian Universalist Society presented a program of Broadway show tunes performed by a trio of local singers. This time around, Jeremy Berlin and Eric Johnson will provide an evening of jazz, both old favorites and original compositions.
Mr. Berlin is known to many as the keyboardist for Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, but the versatile musician is also an in-demand jazz musician. He toured with the Nina Simone Band before forming a jazz duo with Mr. Johnson in 2002.
Mr. Johnson, a guitarist, composer, and bassist, had a successful career as a performer and educator in Boston and New York City before moving to the Island in 1997. He has recorded five albums of standards and originals.
The chapel will be transformed into a true intimate coffeehouse setting for the evening, with cafe tables and chairs. Guests will be treated to complimentary coffee, soda, and homemade treats.
Proceeds from the show will help to fund a sorely needed renovation of the 19th century wooden chapel. Currently underway is a project to update the electrical infrastructure and replace fixtures with more effective and energy-efficient lighting.
“The church was built in 1896,” Diane Purvis, chair of the music committee, said. “It’s time to do some major work on it. We have some amazing musical people in the congregation. We thought we could tap that resource to raise some money to help pay for the renovation.”
According to its website, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard is “an intentionally welcoming congregation of diverse faiths and shared value, fostering spiritual growth, community action, and universal justice.”
The regular Sunday services are nontraditional. They feature a variety of topics, and focus on intellectual and spiritual exploration.
“We’re becoming a church that is particularly interested in and supportive of music,” Ms. Purvis said. “We designate three or four Sundays a year as music Sundays. We offer talks about music, and do at least one original music service. The kind of music that is appropriate in the church is far beyond the liturgical.” She notes that Mr. Berlin performs regularly at the church, and that the congregation of about 100 members includes a small choir.
A number of other congregants are professional or former professional musicians, including the three who performed for the Broadway show tune evening. Ms. Purvis is a member of the Island Community Chorus.
The coffeehouse series will take a break during the summer and pick up again in the fall. The initiative was launched as more than just a fundraising initiative, but to offer off-season entertainment and further connect with the community.
“Part of the reason we’re doing this is to bring people from the community into our church,” Ms. Purvis said. “Not from the perspective of proselytizing, but to have more of a presence in the community. Music brings people together.”
Ms. Purvis points out that the U.U. Church is very involved with a number of charitable initiatives, including the Martha’s Vineyard Crop Hunger Walk, Hospitality Homes (the homeless shelter program), and the Family-to-Family program, which offers free holiday meals to those in need.
Music in the Chapel evening of jazz: Sunday, May 1, at 7:30 pm. Suggested donation: $15, includes coffee, soft drinks, and sweets. All are welcome. For more information, visit uusmv.org .