The Green Room: Music, community and the Englert Theatre

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The Englert Theatre, Oct. 4, 2018. — Frankie Schneckloth/Little Village

Jesse Elliot and Rachel Ries, the featured presenters at the next Green Room, understand the intersection of music and community.

Elliot has been the director of the Music District in Fort Collins, Colorado, since it opened in 2016. The nonprofit Music District calls itself as a “gathering hub, workspace, and creative playground for the music community. For the novice or pro, it’s a place where anyone can develop the art, learn the business, and share skills and passions with musicians and music lovers.” Its one-acre campus has five buildings that offer co-working spaces and practice rooms for musicians.

Elliot, who has more than a decade of experience as a touring musician, has also worked in other cities — such as Denver, Colorado and Austin, Texas — to facilitate the incorporation of music into community life.

Rachel Ries is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter, whose music NPR described as evoking “the wide open spaces of South Dakota, the equatorial humidity of Africa, the bucolic green of Vermont and the managed urban chaos that is Brooklyn.” Growing up as the child of missionaries, she absorbed the sounds of both Mennonite hymns and songs from African musical traditions, before going on to create her own sound. In addition to writing, performing and producing her own muisic, Ries is also a community choral director.

Ries’ most recent album is Her Crooked Heart.

Like the other featured presenters this year, Elliot and Ries have created a “community homework assignment” for their session of the Green Room on Monday night.

If the very survival of the world depended on you singing a song with someone in the next hour, and you could be anywhere and with anyone to do it, who and where and how and why and what song would you choose?

Each week, the Green Room also highlights the Iowa City nonprofit doing important work in the area. The Englert Theatre is the featured nonprofit for the Oct. 8 session, which is only appropriate, since the Englert has hosted every Green Room since it began encouraging the public to attend it sessions last year. (The Green Room is actually a class for University of Iowa undergraduates that started incorporating the wider public into its sessions in 2017.)

The Englert was opened in September 1912 by William and Etta Englert. After a devastating fire in 1926, it was rebuilt and its new interior reflected the lavish style of that era’s movie palaces. Over the decades, its business declined and its décor became less palatial, and 1999, the theater finally closed. The building was sold to a bar owner, who planned to convert the space into a nightclub.

Concerned Iowa Citians organized to save the theater, and persuaded the city to buy the building. The “Save the Englert” campaign raised enough money to restore it to an earlier, more elegant style. The theater is now owned and operated by a nonprofit dedicated to preserving its history and serving the community.

This will be the fifth of this semester’s six Green Room sessions. It begins at 7 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

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