jennie spada

By Daniel Fitzmaurice

The Old Church/Photo by Jennie Baker Photography

What’s wrong with a summer treat…ice cream, traveling, swimming holes, and, for me at least, lots of live music? Feeling a little stuffed with ice cream and a little low on music, I marked my calendar to see a concert at the Old Church’s Sack Lunch Concerts, a mainstay in Portland every Wednesday at noon since the building reopened in 1968. I wrote, “Gershwin, Old Church, 12pm, free.”

I kept the date, and behind the bulky, ornate wooden doors of this magnificent building, discovered a stunning but understated interior. The design whisked me immediately to 1883, the year it was built.

It was all very informal inside. Joyce, who has volunteered at the welcome table for 30 years, handed me a simple printed program from the stack and offered to pour me a cup of coffee from a vintage percolator. She is kind and accessible, much like The Old Church itself. Standing with her hair collected in a neat bun, she made sure I knew that this happens every week. Her gracious welcome alone was worth the cash I stuffed into the glass vase for the church’s painting fund.

As Joyce was busy providing this radical hospitality to the rest of the guests, I learned all of this from John, who has attended the concerts every week for the past five years. He prefers Dixieland and country to the mix of classical, jazz, and world music that often grace the Sack Lunch stage, but he explains that the regulars attend for other reasons: “The music here is a great relief for so many people. It’s all they have outside of their daily routine.”

Continues…