Starting two weeks ago, a serendipitous meeting between the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic and St. Anna's Episcopal Church has given birth to a weekly event that will be useful — and fun — for musicians and nonmusicians alike.
The church became one of the first nonprofit organizations to take advantage of the NOMC's Summer Solace funding to hire local musicians to play in New Orleans during the gig-dry summer months. On Wednesdays, after an evening service, the church will host dinners and performances, as well as provide access to legal, medical and mental health counseling for musicians.
"We've been in the neighborhood for over a hundred years, and like any faith-based organization, we've gone in and out of involvement with our neighborhood," says Father Bill Terry. "For a long time, we've felt like we should do more outreach among musicians, and Katrina allowed us to get the funding to set up and consolidate some resources."
This past Wednesday, attendees were treated to gumbo and other New Orleans dished prepared by a St. Anna's parishioner, as well as a performance by the Storyville Stompers and Lillian Boutté.
"There are two critical links to our culture — music and food," says Terry. "In some respects, we've done a very poor job of nurturing those aspects of our culture. If we lose our core of musicians, this city won't be New Orleans anymore."
Terry envisions St. Anna's on Wednesdays as a point of contact for musicians, where they can relax, network, jam and eat, as well as access valuable resources in their own neighborhood. "New Orleans is very neighborhood-based, so we're focusing on providing these resources downtown," he says.
"For a lot of people, going from Bywater to Carrollton can be like buying a plane ticket to Iowa. So this will be a kind of satellite of the musicians' clinic, serving Treme, Bywater, the 6th, 7th and 9th wards and the French Quarter."
On Wednesdays, musicians will be able to set up appointments for medical screenings, legal advice, stress management counseling and other services. The church will provide space for them to meet with caseworkers throughout the week.
St. Anna's Church is located at 1313 Esplanade Avenue. Services begin Wednesdays at 6 p.m., with dinner and performances beginning at 7 p.m. $5 suggested donation for nonmusicians.