First Church has long been a center of music and the arts in Summit County. The beauty and architectural grandeur of the Meetinghouse space is one of the gems of Akron. The acoustics compliment music like no other venue in the area. Experience the beauty, grandeur and acoustics all in one place – First Church. All performances are free and open to the public. A good-will offering will be taken at the conclusion of the performance to help support the series.
2018-2019 Artists and Dates
Thursday, October 18, 2018, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Americana-folk band “Hey Mavis” was formed by Laurie and Eddie Caner while serving as artists-in-residence in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The group has released three full-length CDs, two of which ranked in the top 10 on the national Folk DJ-L radio charts.
Hey Mavis’s latest project, “Silver Ribbon Dream – People and Stories of the Ohio & Erie Canal”, is a book/CD of original songs and illustrations funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in collaboration with nationally acclaimed artist Leandra Drumm. Preliminary reviews have ranged from “unconventionally beautiful” to “startlingly original”. A traveling gallery exhibit accompanies the “Hey Mavis” performance.
Eddie Caner (violin, viola profunda) spent years performing as a sideman in national touring bands and orchestras, including Page & Plant, Luciano Pavarotti, Smokey Robinson, and Natalie Cole. Laurie Michelle Caner’s (vocals, banjo, songwriting) banjo playing and songwriting tells the story of life with all of its beauty, heartache, disappointment, and joy. Bryan Thomas (bass) is a versatile and nationally well-respected musician and Bass Professor at KSU. Anthony Taddeo is a drummer, composer, and “Out of the Drawer Percussion” performing artist.
Thursday, November 15, 2018, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Under the direction of Jennifer Mekel (Choirmaster – “Gospel Meets Symphony”), the Gospel Choir and Band celebrates family with a selection of gospel and spiritual songs.
Jennifer Mekel is a native of Akron, Ohio. She performed her first concert at age 17 with all original compositions. As a performer, she brings her own style of singing and smooth vocals to gospel music. Being a singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, licensed and ordained minister, and mental health service provider, Jennifer is considered to be a valuable gift to the community.
As Chorus Master, featured soloist and guest Conductor Jennifer has performed with the renowned Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Gospel Meets Symphony annual concert for several years. The University of Akron and Ashland Theological Seminary graduate also serves as the co-host on Ohio’s Power Of Word And Music Ministry radio broadcast, and has performed live as a guest artist on shows such as SiriusXM Radio, The Word Network, Atlanta Live, TBN and TCT. Working with the Change Direction Initiative, she is the co-author of the song “Change Direction”, which promotes discussion about healthy mental health conversations. With several songs appearing the Gospel Billboard chart including the top 20 Billboard single “Great God”, her music can be heard nationally and internationally.
For more on Jennifer Mekel log on to:
Thursday, January 17, 2019, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
The Big ‘Grass Band is Paul’s return to Bluegrass, flanked by premier like-minded musicians, making Paul’s original songs come to life. The album, “Ohio Bluegrass: From the Appalachian Plateau”, was recorded in Akron, OH by David Mayfield, and all the musicians involved grew up within fifty miles of one another in NE Ohio.
The Big ‘Grass Band is made up of seasoned, experienced players, with decades of experience, successfully presenting Bluegrass to audiences knowledgeable about the music, and to folks hearing Bluegrass for the first time.
Paul Kovac – banjo, vocal
David Mayfield – mandolin, vocal
Bill Lestock – fiddle
Ron Bonkowski – guitar, vocal
Andrew Bonnis – bass
“Then along comes Paul Kovac, with a new, old, traditional, big sound … a fun ride from start to finish.”
-Bluegrass Unlimited 2017
Thursday, February 21, 2019, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
“The Akron Big Band” has been entertaining audiences for over 50 years, making it the longest running group of its kind in the area. Their musical repertoire includes Big Band music, swing, Lindy hop, foxtrot, waltz, tango, samba, cha-cha, etc. including the music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, and many more great Big Bands.
Thursday, March 7, 2019, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Celtic Rush is a traditional Irish band with a twist. Performing with a variety of instruments including fiddles, guitars, and tin whistles, their musical repertoire includes Irish and Scottish jigs, waltzes, polkas and other favorites – with some unexpected flair.
Thursday, May 16, 2019, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Under the direction of Mr. Kristan Crane, the Akron Pops Orchestra is an all-volunteer group of 55 talented musicians dedicated to sharing the gift of music with our local community. The Pops performs a wide variety of musical genres including: light classical, waltzes, marches, as well as selections from Broadway musicals and Hollywood movies. Originally known as the Doctor’s Orchestra founded in 1926 by Akron area physicians, today the Pops musicians come from all walks of life.
Under the direction of Dr. Guy V. Bordo
Thursday, September 27, 2018, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Thursday, October 25, 2018, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Thursday, December 6, 2018, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Thursday, February 7, 2019, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Thursday, March 14, 2019, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Thursday, May 2, 2019, 7:30pm – 9:00pm