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THE FOUNTAIN STREET CHURCH CONCERTS

FSC 1(This photo is courtesy of Chad Boorsma, Photo Editor of the OHS Pipe Organ Database at: http://database.organsociety.org/ )

 

The Carolyn Heines’ Fountain Street Church Concert Era; 1966-1973

 

Written by Kim Rush

 

”My grandmothers were both talented pianists and my parents loved listening to music. My older sisters liked big bands and Frank Sinatra. I just took it from there.  I enjoyed Nat King Cole and Anita O’Day when I was in junior high.

By the time I entered high school in the early 1950s, two of my best friends were jazz fans. We listened to Randy’s Record Shop (WLAC from Nashville) and ‘Symphony Sid’ Torin (WJZ in New York City and WCOP in Boston) at night.” 1 These radio announcers provided great exposure to blues, rhythm and blues, and jazz music , which was rarely heard on Grand Rapids stations.

In the 1950s some of the local radio stations other than WLAV, WJEF and WOOD were licensed to broadcast only during daylight hours. As a result, in the evening, the signal of distant stations with strong signals could be received as far away as Grand Rapids.

“While I was in college, someone asked me how I got into jazz, and I responded by stating that I assumed that everyone liked jazz.  I co-hosted a jazz radio show while I was attending Smith College.”

Carolyn explains her passion for jazz in this manner: “Jazz is a spiritual thing for me. I am the most ‘blissed out’ and focused while listening to jazz. Going into jazz nightclubs and hearing people talk louder than the music is upsetting for me, because I am in church at that time. Musicians convey the sacred.”

Carolyn also openly admits that she idolized jazz musicians at that time, and generally assumed that they were intelligent and enlightened people.

“My involvement with Fountain Street Church probably began in 1955, just before I was married to Dan Heines, a Grand Rapids native, whom I met while I was a student at the University of Michigan. We were married in 1957 and began to attend this church, where we were attracted to the teachings of Duncan Littlefair.” He served as the preacher at Fountain Street Church from 1944 to 1980.

One place where you could hear big name jazz performers was the Fruitport Pavilion, located on the east end of Spring Lake. “I certainly did go to Fruitport, but can’t remember all of the bands I saw there. There was the Brubeck Quartet and Stan Kenton, whom I interviewed in July of 1956 while I was working for the Grand Rapids Herald. There were other bands….Woody Herman and Duke Ellington.  It was a great dancing place and I was heartbroken when it burned down in 1962. There was a fancy chandelier there with colored lights that rotated.”

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Stan Kenton appeared at Fruitport Pavilion on July 20, 1956.  2

 

Carolyn felt that the jazz music being performed around town was too scarce, and even more so as it pertained to ‘big name’ jazz concerts coming to Grand Rapids. In an effort to help remedy this shortage of jazz concerts in Grand Rapids, Carolyn began by promoting two jazz shows in the early 1960s. She met Paul Desmond on November 11, 1960 while he was playing at the Civic Auditorium with Dave Brubeck. This show was divided into two parts. The first portion featured Brubeck’s band playing with the Grand Rapids Symphony. 3 After intermission the symphony performed Ravel’s Bolero without Brubeck’s band. Carol asked Desmond if he would rather have a drink with her family at the Pantlind Hotel or stay to listen to the symphony, and Desmond chose the first option.

In the early 1960s, she booked Dave Brubeck at the Boat and Canoe Club in North Park for a private party. In February of 1962 Carolyn presented the Modern Jazz Quartet to 400 people at Center Theatre, located at 240-242 Monroe. Her husband Dan was working as an actor for the Civic Theatre group at that time. This acting company was using the Center Theatre stage for their plays. This building, which was located on the east side of Monroe, was torn down in 1964, during urban renewal.

Local jazz drummer Evans DeVries recalls that there were Saturday afternoon jazz concerts in 1960 or 1961 at the Center Theatre, as well. At least one of these concerts was recorded, which featured the talents of Gay Whitney, Sammy Fletcher, Lee Lockwood, Frank Steed and Dick Harris.

3 FSC1940s photo of Center Theatre, formerly the Isis Theatre, located at 240-242 Monroe N.E. 4

 

 

 

 

Modern Jazz Quartet—May 11, 1965

 

 

4 FSCThe Modern Jazz Quartet concert was Carolyn Heines’ first production at Fountain Street Church. 5

 

Carolyn proceeded to put together a group named Fountain Street Concerts “ to promote jazz entertainment while raising funds for worthy community enterprises.” Profits from this show were to be provided for GAP, a church-sponsored recreation and education program. GAP stands for growth, achievement and progress. 6

Her first production featured The Modern Jazz Quartet featuring John Lewis on piano, Percy Heath on bass, Connie Kay on drums and Milt Jackson on vibraphone. Fountain Street Church audio archivist Dick Wood recalls that Beverly Howerton, the church choir director and organist, recorded this concert with microphones which were suspended above the group while they played.

 

 

Duke Ellington – April 17, 1966

 

Less than a year later, Carolyn approached the church leadership with the idea of presenting a Duke Ellington concert there. She knew that Duke Ellington and his orchestra had recently performed his ‘concert of sacred music’ premiere at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco on September 16, 1965. In December Ellington presented a similar recital in New York City at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. “I don’t remember who I first approached about having these concerts. Perhaps it was Duncan Littlefair or the choir director and church organist, Mr. Beverly Howerton. However, I was required to acquire a church sponsor in order to hold any event there. Duke’s sacred concert required a choir, and our choir was eager to participate. It worked out perfectly.  Everyone at Fountain Street Church was in favor of it.” The concert was scheduled for April 17, 1966. The proceeds from the concert were to be used to help send the choir to England where they would perform at several churches.

A review of this concert, written by Gerald Elliot of the Grand Rapids Press, cited that the dancer for this performance was Buster Brown and the singers were Esther Morrow, Jimmy McPhail and Tony Watkins. Elliot asserted that Ellington “isn’t the first composer to bring jazz music into the church. There have been numerous experiments of this kind.” {Ed note: In this specific situation, Elliot was referring to “the church” in general terms.} He also added that a standing ovation was offered to Ellington and his entourage at the end of the concert. 7

Ellington’s ‘concerts of sacred music’ were partially based on compositions he had written previously; namely Black, Brown and Beige, New World a Comin’ and My People. “However, his sacred concerts generally began with a new and vital piece, In the Beginning God, with lyrics written by Ellington.” 8

“Ellington’s first sacred concert got generally positive notices, and articles about sacred jazz began to appear in non-jazz, mainstream media magazines. Some performances were broadcast on TV as well. A lavish April 1966 feature (in Ebony magazine) was devoted to the emerging jazz-goes-to-church movement.” 9

A recording of Ellington’s December 1965 Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church concert was released on RCA records in 1966. As expected, Ellington’s blending of ‘sacred’ themes with jazz, in addition to the presentation of this music in church sanctuaries generated some controversy. Numerous Christian clergy and liturgists insisted that the sacred and the secular should not be combined, especially in a church environment.

In December of 1966, Ellington encountered an attempted boycott of his sacred concert by a group of Baptist ministers who were attending a convention in Washington D.C. Many of these preachers were opposed to him combining sacred themes with jazz. They displayed their disapproval by attempting to block ticket sales for his concert which was scheduled that same week at Constitution Hall, but their efforts failed. Ellington held a news conference during the afternoon of this concert. He responded to his opposition by explaining that “what it takes to make music sacred is a matter of sincerity. Worship is a matter of profound intent. It’s easy to misunderstand. Every man prays in his own language, and there is no language that God does not understand.” 10

Over a decade earlier, Ray Charles was accused of a similar offense. Although he was not attempting to bring his music to a church audience or even trying to compose sacred music, he was certainly criticized for what was perceived as combining gospel music with secular lyrics. Charles’ 1954 popular record titled I Got A Woman is derivative of “It Must Be Jesus,” recorded during the same year by the Southern Tones gospel group:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDoEhA6jh6I  11

Although mixing of Christian or Biblical themes with jazz and ushering this amalgam into the church setting seemed controversial to some people and some churches, it can be said that it was not generally problematic for Fountain Street Church members in 1966. As Carolyn explains, “we saw no difference between the sacred and the secular.”

“However, I should mention that the choir paid to fly me to New York City to ask Duke Ellington to play Satin Doll in the middle of his sacred service. He agreed to play this tune after intermission, once the sacred concert was completed.” He was not offended by Carolyn’s request, but Ellington did indeed acknowledge the difference between sacred and secular, which is why he conceded to playing Satin Doll after his sacred program was finished.

5 FSCProgram cover for the Duke Ellington concert at Fountain Street Church. (Fountain Street Church archives)

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Program notes for Duke Ellington concert, page one and two. (Fountain Street Church archives) 7 FSC

Program notes for Duke Ellington concert, pages three and four (Fountain Street Church archives)
In a Grand Rapids Press article written a few days before Ellington’s concert at Fountain Street Church, the writer predicted a sell-out concert, stating that only 70 tickets of 1800 were left. He also proposed that the sounds of jazz “would be unusual for any church except Fountain Street Church.” 12

After the concert, Duke Ellington and his band went to Carolyn and Dan’s house for a reception.

 

 

 

 Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington — October 19, 1966

 

 

 

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This view of Fountain Street Church is from the rear of the sanctuary looking toward the front.

This photo is courtesy of Chad Boorsma, Photo Editor of the OHS Pipe Organ Database at: http://database.organsociety.org/  

 

This ‘sensitivity’ concerning the performance of secular music in a church environment did not suddenly vanish after the Ellington concert. Ella Fitzgerald appeared on a billing with Duke Ellington during October of 1966. When Fitzgerald arrived at Fountain Street Church and realized that she was being asked to perform in a church sanctuary she informed Carolyn that “there is no way I can sing the blues in a church.” Heines tried to console her by explaining that “most people do not consider this to be a church.” Fortunately, with no time to spare, Duke Ellington convinced Ella that it was alright to perform there. That night, she began her show with her own version of Nancy Sinatra’s hit from that same year, ‘These Boots are Made for Walking,’ which Ella also recorded.

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Concert poster (Fountain Street Church archives)

 

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This advertisement appeared in the October 19, 1966 Grand Rapids Press entertainment section.

“The tickets were not selling very well for Ella’s concert. I found out that Duke was playing in Albion, Michigan the night before her gig, so I asked him if he would come to perform with Ella on the 19th. 13  He graciously agreed. Always the charming gentleman, Duke gave roses to Carolyn and her mother, as well as the choir director’s wife.”

Ellington arrived without his band. “Ella sang solo and was accompanied by the Jimmy Jones Trio for the first half of the concert, then Duke played solo piano after intermission.” Duke and Ella were performing together frequently in 1966, and they both use the same manager, Norman Granz.

“After the concert, we flew Duke back to Chicago in a private plane owned by one of the choir members. I was aboard this flight. It was a little four-seater.”

 

 

 

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Program for the Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington concert  (Fountain Street Church Archive)

 

 

 

Dave Brubeck Quartet – February 5, 1967

 

 

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Grand Rapids Press entertainment advertisement from Saturday February 4, 1967

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Poster for the Dave Brubeck Quartet concert  (Fountain Street Church Archive)

 

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Program for the Dave Brubeck concert on February 5, 1967  (Fountain Street Church Archive)

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Page 2 of the 1967 Dave Brubeck concert program  (Fountain Street Church Archives)

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Page 3 of the Dave Brubeck 1967 concert program  (Fountain Street Church Archives)

 

An article written by Gerald Elliot appeared in the Grand Rapids Press on the same day as this concert. 14 Elliot explained that Brubeck and his wife had previously co-written their first piece of sacred music for a Louis Armstrong concert at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

Mr. and Mrs. Brubeck’s latest sacred scores, entitled This is the Day, Forty Days, The Great Commandment and Praise Ye the Lord were all parts of a collection originally called The Temptations and Teachings of Christ. It was also known as the Sacred Service for Chorus, Organ and Jazz Quartet.

This music was premiered at Fountain Street Church on Sunday, February 5, 1967. The day before the concert, Brubeck heard the Fountain Street Church choir rehearse his music for the first time. It was composed of nine separate movements, and it took forty minutes to perform. These compositions were actually just a portion of what was to ultimately become a larger piece which Brubeck presented as Light in the Wilderness at Fountain Street Church in 1969. In 1967 Brubeck agreed that he would return to the church to present this entire finished work, and he kept his promise.

In 2007, Shan Sutton asked Brubeck and his wife Iola why there had been various names for this work:

Shan Sutton: “….you two have continued to collaborate on a lot of these large scale choral works.”

Dave Brubeck: “….. the first title was The Temptations and Teachings of Christ, and for reasons I can’t remember, publishers didn’t think that was a good title. We changed it to The Light in the Wilderness.”

Iola Brubeck: “…. As the oratorio expanded, it went beyond just the temptations and teachings and went into some other areas. So I think they wanted a title that covered everything.” 15

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Dave Brubeck rehearses his sacred music oratorio with the Fountain Street Choir in 1967. 16

 

 

Grateful Dead – March 24, 1968

 

Carolyn’s next concert project was perhaps even more controversial. The Adult Education Committee and Carolyn decided to bring the Grateful Dead rock group to the church on Sunday, March 24, 1968. An article in the Interpreter newspaper explained that the concert was part of the church’s three part series designed to provide a “better understanding of the hippie culture and today’s youth.” 17

By 1968, she figured that she had exhausted the possibilities for bringing in jazz shows which would draw a good crowd. She also came to the conclusion that there was very little being offered by other venues in town in terms of quality rock shows, so she decided to try a rock concert at Fountain Street Church. Carolyn maintains that rock bands were relatively inexpensive to hire at that time.

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Handbill for the Grateful Dead concert (Brehm Ryspstra collection)

 

The two dollar general admission tickets for this concert did not guarantee reserved seating, according to a three paragraph article from the Grand Rapids Press, which appeared on the day of the concert. This same article stated that the Grateful Dead had requested that a hearse was to be delivered to the airport by mid- afternoon to transport their equipment and the band.

They were scheduled to perform that evening at 7:30 PM, with the doors opening at 6:45. But this concert was not to happen. Posters and handbills were produced for this show and all of the tickets had been sold. Articles that advertised this event had appeared in The Grand Rapids Press.

The creation of posters and handbills for this event was handled differently than most of the concerts at Fountain Street Church. James Carrico, a Sacramento artist, supplied the artwork for the poster. It appears that Grateful Dead’s management wanted to maintain control of the advertising image and identity for the band, so they had the posters printed and shipped to Fountain Street Church.

Carolyn recalls getting a phone call from the band on the same day as the concert. The band’s spokesperson told her that a snow storm was preventing the band from traveling from Detroit to Grand Rapids. He suggested that she pass out the posters and handbills created for the event to placate the disappointed ticket holders who showed up at the church expecting to see the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead was scheduled to perform in Detroit on the 22nd and 23rd for two concerts at the Detroit State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Due to poor attendance for the first night’s show, the second night’s concert was moved to the Grande Ballroom in downtown Detroit. But the Grateful Dead did not play at the Grande on Saturday the 23rd, and reportedly headed back to their home base in San Francisco that same day.

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Poster for the March 22 and 23 Grateful Dead concerts at the State Fairgrounds in Detroit 18

 

Carolyn had a connection for acquiring bands with Russ Gibb, the owner of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. Gibb began staging rock shows at the Grande by October of 1966. He became aware that Carolyn was staging rock concerts in Grand Rapids. Most likely, when a nationally renowned band was coming to play at the Grande, he reached out to Carolyn to see if he could also book this band at Fountain Street Church during the same week. This served as an enticement for the bands, as an expanded Michigan tour thereby became more profitable, and Gibb most likely could get a better deal with the bands he was negotiating with.

Russ Gibb: “Some of the English bands {editor’s note: four English bands performed at the Fountain Street Church rock concerts} would get on a bus back in those days; start in New York, go to Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis. So Detroit was a logical stop from Cleveland or Buffalo. It really started as a matter of convenience for the English bands. Once they played the Grande and saw that the sound was great, they spread the word. And once the word got out in England that there was a great place where the people were cool, and the sound was cool and the city was cool, the Grande became a legend.” 19

 

Stan Kenton – March 31, 1968

 

Carolyn had no choice but to adjust quickly to this disappointment, as only a week later, on March 31, Stan Kenton was scheduled to perform at the church. She had written to Kenton to ask him if he was going to play any new or religious music for this concert. He responded by saying that he would not be playing any religious pieces, but that “he will be playing new music… that will be in keeping with modern philosophy….that is becoming so much a part of modern religion.” 20 Kenton kept his word by including two new compositions written by his percussionist Dee Barton, namely Woman and Elegy.

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The Stan Kenton concert was sponsored by the Fountain Street Church Choir  21

David Nicolette provided a review of this concert for the Grand Rapids Press. He wrote that there were cameramen at the church who recorded the band’s performance. During the concert, Kenton explained that this film footage was going to be used for an hour long television special attempting to illustrate what it is like for a jazz band to be on the road constantly; doing numerous ‘one night stands.’ The cameramen and Kenton both expressed that they were pleasantly surprised that the concert was held in the church sanctuary.   22

 

 

 

 

Fountain Club and Recording the Concerts

 

Fountain Club members Brad Fay and Keith Oberfeld served in active roles for the rock concerts. Brad was President of Fountain Club in 1970 during his senior year in high school, yet clearly recalls the Grateful Dead concert cancellation in March of 1968.

Brad explains that “Fountain Club members worked hard to ‘get the word out’ concerning these concerts.” Their efforts included selling tickets previous to the shows and dropping off posters to music stores, record shops or ‘head shops’ like Posteria at 722 Wealthy S.E. or Painted Caravan at 1350 Plainfield N.E.  Head shops generally sold items such as music posters and smoking paraphernalia, as well as literature pertaining to the counterculture.

 

“Profit from the concerts was used for tours by Fountain Club members, which took place every two years. I went to New York City twice on these trips. Fountain Club members served as ushers and an informal security team during the shows. But it seemed that the main function for Fountain Club members was to ask people attending the shows to put out their cigarettes.”

 

Keith Oberfeld had recently relocated to East Grand Rapids during his junior year in high school. He was very interested in recording. He was also part of a ‘music group’ at Fountain Street, run by the choir director, Beverley Howerton, and Carolyn Heines. “On Sunday night the high school kids would get together and listen to music. “

 

“Jack Bowers got me involved with taping the rock concerts. Dick Woods recorded the jazz concerts. Steve Crandal and other kids helped me with these recordings. There was a booth near the pulpit that was equipped with a reel- to -reel recorder. We used microphones to record everything back then. Many Fountain Club members worked at the rock concerts. Carolyn gave directions to all of us. Another thing we had to do was cater to the needs of the band members and their entourage.”

 

 

Procol Harum – October 13, 1968

 

After seven months of trying to put the Grateful Dead concert fiasco behind her, Carolyn and the Fountain Club high school group presented an October 13 rock concert featuring Procol Harum and a local group called the Patterns.

According to a January 1st article from the Grand Rapids Times, The Patterns began as a strictly vocal group in 1968, and eventually performed with instrumentalists. 23

During 1970 Brad Fay served as president of Fountain Club. At that time he was a high school senior. He recalls that during his high school years, Fountain Street Church sponsored an escrow talent show, “which was an attempt to help racially integrate Grand Rapids. We alternated between black and white acts at these talent shows, and there were prizes.  I’d bet that the Patterns, who performed at the Procol Harum show, were one of the black bands who performed for the escrow talent shows.”

Carolyn Heines maintains that “there were about 120 members and that proceeds from Fountain Club sponsored concerts were used for projects and trips, study groups, music, theater and art, and social action groups. One time we went to see Herbie Hancock play at the Village Vanguard in New York City. The following day, Hancock came to the hotel where the Fountain Club members were staying and spoke to them about music.”

Two other people who were active with the church’s youth programs at that time were Jack Bowers, the minister of education, and Randy Lunsford, an advisor to the Fountain Club.

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Procol Harum and the Patterns at Fountain Street Church. An entertainment ad from the Grand Rapids Press  

 

 

 

Fountain Street Church continued to present their concerts on Sunday night. Electric Wallpaper provided the light show for the Procol Harum concert. The band had already been touring the United States for five weeks when they arrived in Grand Rapids. An interview with the band members revealed that they felt disappointed because the audience was somewhat unresponsive. 24

Carolyn wrote an article for the Interpreter after the concert which described what occurred during the day of the show. 25 She had spent twelve hours with the band members that day, including an after-show party at her home. Carol and her husband Dan hosted receptions for the bands after many of the Fountain Street concerts.

At four P.M. the band appeared at Fountain Street Church to set up their equipment and rehearse. After the band’s practice session, they ate dinner and then Procol Harum changed into their stage attire.

The band had never played in a church before. They were thrilled with the church pipe organ and the sound and beauty of the church sanctuary. They also mentioned that they would like to record there.

After the concert, Procol Harum attended Carolyn’s party, and listened to a tape of their performance from that evening.

 

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