It’s nice when something positive happens as a result of a negative event.
Seven years ago, an electrical fire broke out in the chancel of the First Lutheran Church in Venice.
A year and a half later, the sanctuary was resurrected.
“In the restoration process, it became even more beautiful than it was before and it’s also an acoustically amazing place,” says Barbara Schwan.
Manuel Rosales, who worked on organs for Disney Hall and the new cathedral downtown, built a state-of-the-art organ for the church.
“So there is a serious instrument there,” she adds.
Barbara thought that having serious classical music in the sanctuary would be “awesome.”
So when she was approached to be the director of fellowship (community outreach) at the church, she said to herself, “Bingo, here’s my perfect thing to do.”
She wanted to make a deal. She envisioned starting a concert series if she accepted the position.
Pastor Kenneth Frese, the pastor at that time, was thrilled because it turns out he is a music fanatic.
“I started going forward and I figured that I might as well start at the top and see what happens,” Barbara says.
Her first call was to Andrea Laguni, general manager of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Laguni said he thought the space was amazing and the acoustics were great and said, “Yes we’ll do it.”
The first Masters in the Chapel concert, on September 16th, 2001, was a flute quartet by that orchestra. Since then other extraordinary musicians have graced the stage.
Among them are members of the Pacific Harmony String Quartet and the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra and soloists from the Los Angeles Master Chorale Orchestra.
Also, organ music has been performed with a unique form of performance art called “Interpretive Painting.”
The fourth season of Masters in the Chapel promises to be just as impressive.
What better way to be joyful for the holiday season than to rock the rafters with gospel music from the West Adams Boulevard St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church choir, scheduled to perform Sunday, December 11th.
“One Piano, Six Hands” features three colleagues from The Colburn School of Performing Arts presenting an eclectic program of piano for two, four and six hands Sunday, February 26th.
Another treat is a performance Sunday, March 26th, by Dennis Gano — who debuted the new organ at the 2004 dedication —who will once again bring this magnificent instrument to life.
The season finale Sunday, April 29th, will be a celebration of a musical genius — a tribute to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — featuring a trio from the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
“It’s really fun to have members of the community have a beautiful place to go and hear world-class music at an incredibly reasonable price,” says Barbara. “I feel it’s something that will have a life of its own.”
Here’s what Venice resident Michele Bradley has to say about her experience:
“I have thoroughly enjoyed every concert in the First Lutheran Church concert series. I believe I have been to all of them. The musicians are excellent, the programs are interesting and the setting is both beautiful and intimate. I feel very fortunate to have this series in my neighborhood.”
Performances are scheduled from 4 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Suggested donations are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors over 65 and children under 12. Proceeds benefit the First Lutheran Church and school.
There is on-site parking on the school playground. The Venice Family Clinic has agreed to let the church use its Venice Health Clinic parking at 905 Venice Blvd. and there is public parking near the Pacific Resident Theatre at 703 Venice Blvd. The church is at 815 Venice Blvd., Venice.
Information, (310) 821-2740 or www.flvenice.org/masters.html
SKATING MURAL — When you arrive at the church, you will see an “only in Venice” attraction that is probably second in local popularity to the Dancing Ballerina at the corner of Rose Avenue and Main Street.
A mural, Jesus Roller Skating with Friends in Venice Beach, graces the church exterior facing Venice Boulevard.
It was created by Father Maur Van Doorslaer, a monk at St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains.
Father Van Doorslaer is an artist at the Abbey, where he paints ceramics, mainly of angels, to sell for fundraising. The scene of the skaters was done after visiting Venice.
“He was just so taken by the community and the artists here and he loves it so much that he created this piece,” says church member Heather Davis.
Heather, a new member at the time, first saw the scene in ceramic at Pastor Frese’s home.
“When I saw it I just had this vision that it should be big and on our church,” she says.
While permission was not granted to reproduce it, the Father did agree to create a new one for the church. For the new version, he changed a few details.
A sign showing orange juice for $1 was changed to $2 because of inflation and a small group in the background is now wearing the newer style of in-line skates.
School parent Donna Petersen, a sign designer, was instrumental in the transformation from canvas to vinyl, using billboard technology.
There was some controversy regarding the mural.
“I was newer in the church,” says Heather. “It never dawned on me that it was a big deal or radical that the mural was created by a Catholic to be put in a Lutheran church. He’s a monk. It’s a good thing.”
The mural has become famous.
“It’s a great piece and we frequently find people taking pictures when they’re visiting,” says Heather. “They’ll take pictures of themselves in front of it.”
Only in Venice can we find Jesus roller-skating with his friends.