Classical to Avant Garde: Building a Free Music Series

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Justin Fields is the music director of Divine Mercy Parish and the organizer for the Divine Mercy Parish Concert Series. Here he is at the organ in the choir loft of St. Frances of Paola.

UPDATE: **LOCATION CHANGE** Due to flooding at the Vetro Center, the December 13th DMP Concert Series featuring Brian Charette’s Kürrent at 7 pm will now be held at the Green Door Gallery, located at 206 Skillman Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211. 

In 2018, Justin Fields, the music director of Divine Mercy Parish was given the opportunity to orchestrate a free concert series at venues within Divine Mercy Parish.  Divine Mercy Parish consists of three churches: St. Cecilia’s (84 Herbert Street), St. Francis of Paola (219 Conselyea Street), and St. Nicholas (26 Olive Street) Roman Catholic Churches.  Last year’s series took place in various venues (for example St. Francis Church and the intimate Green Door Gallery were performance spaces) with various acoustics for a variety of experiences.

Fields who is classically trained and studied at the The Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College was given the task to curate the free music series by Divine Mercy’s pastor, Father Thomas Vassalotti.  Father Tom, a very accomplished double-bass player (a Julliard graduate, toured with opera companies, played with the philharmonic, etc.) had put concerts on occasionally prior to the series. The attendance for these performances encouraged the idea to develop a series and artistically engage the community on a more consistent basis.

Test everything and retain what is good.”
—St. Paul

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Come see December 13th’s offering of the Divine Mercy Parish (DMP) Concert Series featuring Brian Charette’s Kürrent at St. Nicholas Church (at 7 p.m.)!

 Justin selected the artists for the initial series from his own network, contacts through his study at the conservatory, and friends that he knew from his work as a musician in New York. In addition Dan Barrett and the The International Street Cannibals came on board through their connection to Father Tom. For the second series he’s reached further and did some cold calling with success that brought in the New Thread Quartet, which is scheduled to play on May 1st and be the closing act of this season. It is a challenging process, as the artists are asked to play for free due to the limited budget, but the performers see other benefits from their participation. Justin is honored to provide a stage to some of the vast and impressive pool of talent that is found in the city.

The content of the series ranges from classical to avant-garde. Justin states his philosophy for content is very open minded and follows St. Paul advice, “Test everything and retain what is good.” His goal is to bring in more of the local community and let them know “There’s something here!” and “I’m excited to give people the opportunity to get outside their comfort zone,” said Justin in reference to the more outré acts.

The first Divine Mercy Parish (DMP) Concert Series had six performances from December 2018 through June 2019. The series’ sophomore year began on October 28th, and as of this printing three performances remain in the 2019-2020 season. The next performance will be on December 13th at Msgr. Vetro Center at St. Nicholas Church and features Grammy nominated jazz organist Brian Charette with his group Kürrent. This is Charette’s second time playing in the DMP Concert Series as last year he played St. Nicholas’s newly restored Hammond B3 organ.  As it is December, this performance is sure to have some holiday tunes in the mix.

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The Green Door Gallery is on the corner of Skillman and Humboldt and denoted by an awning that proclaims Divine Mercy Cultural Center. Border Line is the latest of several art exhibits at this space curated by artist Elisa Jensen, which includes works by Holly Miller, Natalie Moore, and Ellie Murphy. It runs on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m.–6 p.m. until December 15th.

The venues of the performances also bring a vital element to the performances. The Green Door Gallery’s latest exhibit Border Line served as the background for November’s performance of the series that featured Low Art, an improvisational music duo with Justin Fields on keyboards and Cody Hosza on saxophone. The Border Line exhibit continues to run on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m.–6 p.m. through December 15th.

The next performance in the Divine Mercy Parish Concert Series will be Brian Charette’s Kürrent on December 13 at 7 p.m. at the Msgr. Vetro Center at St. Nicholas Church, 26 Olive Street. The performance is free, reservations are encouraged. To make a reservation:


Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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