Oles in search of high-quality music delivered in an intimate setting may finally have their answer, and it’s not the bustling clubs of Minneapolis. Enter The Chapel, a music and art venue that is the newest addition to Northfield’s already vibrant local arts scene.
Tucked amid the gift shops, cafes and clothing stores of downtown Division Street, The Chapel is an operation lacking in pretension. Michael Morris, a Minnesota native and frontman of the band Dewi Sant, founded it almost by default. Initially, he intended the space to serve as the headquarters of his independent record label, Plastic Horse Records. But he quickly found that it doubled nicely as both an office and performance space.
“It was totally over the top as an office,” Morris said. “It’s way too huge and costs too much, but the idea of having a space in my record label’s home where music could be performed and art could be shared was just too good to not make happen – especially a space that sounds, looks and feels like The Chapel.”
A musician himself, Morris is familiar with the Twin Cities scene and often books local artists who happen to be his friends or acquaintances. A handful of well-known acts have performed in the venue already this year, including Caroline Smith, Lucy Michelle, Communist Daughter and Charlie Parr.
“I try to get acts who wouldn’t normally perform in Northfield, other than at the colleges,” Morris said.
He believes that The Chapel can offer a listening experience different than The Pause or The Cove at Carleton. Part of the uniqueness stems from the acoustics of the venue. After initial experimentation with the sound, Morris thinks he’s finally happened upon the perfect system. He likens the sound quality to that in a church or cathedral, hence the venue’s name.
“I’ve never been in a room that sounds so amazing. It’s got this epic natural reverb,” Morris said.
The Chapel also offers a sense of intimacy that bigger venues often lack. Christian Graefe ’13, who saw Charlie Parr perform at The Chapel in early October, said the venue had a more personal vibe, in part due to the informal seating on folding chairs or the floor.
“It was a very relaxed atmosphere,” Graefe said. “The artists are close to the audience and can interact with them.”
The ambiance of the space is all part of Morris’ broader artistic vision and his desire to connect listeners with art and artist on a deeper level.
“One of the reasons that we named it The Chapel is because we think art and sharing it is sacred, and it becomes even more so everyday in a world where every interaction seems to be monitored and calculated for value to convince companies it’s worth advertising on Facebook or whatever. This space seems to have the unique effect of reminding everyone of what music and art mean.”
Though The Chapel has acted primarily as a music venue thus far, Morris plans on dallying in other art forms as well, including dance, theater, poetry, film and visual art. Ultimately, he hopes that the venue will become what he calls an “art gallery in the truest sense,” a space that mixes media while blurring the line between artist and audience.
In the meantime, a handful of shows are already lined up for the upcoming weeks. Bomba de Luz, a band of St. Paul Central students, will perform on Nov. 3, and Jim Ruiz and the Starfolk are slated to play the following weekend, on Nov. 10. The first visual art show will debut in December, featuring the work of local artist Doug Bratland, who designs most of the posters for Chapel shows.
Whether it be Lucy Michelle plunking out her newest melody or a local visual artist displaying his or her work, The Chapel has something to offer art connoisseurs of all tastes and ages, which is exactly what Morris envisioned.
“I want The Chapel to be a space that brings people together,” he said. “If there’s a way that it can be a space where different people in this community can get together to experience music or art, I’d love that.”