Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church, located on East Magnolia Avenue, has hosted a music series this summer every Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. with the goal of supporting artists and giving the Auburn-Opelika community good music.
Music for a Summer’s Eve was created by Thomas Joyner, St. Dunstan’s priest, and coordinated by Emma Dansak, a local musician who performs with various local groups and teaches in her private studio. The series will run through Aug. 12, with the Walker Family Band on Aug. 5 and WireGrass and Friends on Aug. 12.
Nancy Jones, the church’s spokesperson, said the event serves two purposes.
“We wish to support musicians, many of whom have had their livelihood severely curtailed by COVID-19, and we want to offer quality music in a casual setting to the Auburn-Opelika community,” Jones said. “All events are free to the public, although donations for the musicians are appreciated.”
Many of the artists who have performed are from Alabama and Georgia, and styles of music have ranged from acoustic to quasi-bluegrass. The church uses its elevated outdoor porch to act as a stage for the musicians.
None of the concerts have been rained out so far, Jones said.
"We have been very fortunate," Jones said. "If it does rain, we’ll move the performers and the audiences inside the church.”
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The event usually has 35-50 attendees, with some people just stopping by while others stay for the entire performance. The church offers water and snacks and welcomes people to bring their own food for a picnic. The church also provides seating which is mainly shaded under trees. Parking is available on the street and in the AuburnBank parking deck for the music series.
Leigh Anne Armstrong, one of the performers in the music series, is an Auburn resident who had grown up in the city and attended the University. She described her style of music as “singer-songwriter, with touches of folk, gospel, country and pop."
"My songs often tell stories, and the style is a vehicle to carry the story well,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong had spent the time in isolation from the pandemic writing songs to reflect day-to-day life with the goal of helping people feel connected. She posted over 500 of her own songs on social media, which caught the attention of Dansak, the music series coordinator.
When Armstrong was asked to perform at the music series, she had a difficult time choosing between the songs, even relating it to choosing a favorite child. Eventually, she chose the ones “that told stories that held a lot of truth, songs that told the story of the journey through the pandemic and the explosion of social issues that has confronted us as people in this time.”
“I hoped to connect with the audience on several levels — I wanted them to enjoy themselves and laugh," Armstrong said. "I wanted them to think of some part of life in a new or deeper way; I wanted them to feel some richness of the human experience.”
She expressed immense gratitude to the people who had followed her project, the audience, the musicians who enriched her songs and St. Dunstan’s for the opportunity to give her songs life.
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