Photography and photojournalism in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

Wilsonville’s newest music venue is an old school ‘Old Church’

The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, have made their fortune by refurbishing classic buildings from bygone eras, giving the venerable structures new life as breweries, hotels and restaurants.

Starting in 1983 with the Hillsdale Brewery and Public House in Southeast Portland, the company now encompasses nearly 60 breweries, restaurants and pubs, most in Oregon with a handful in Washington.

One of the most recent McMenamin projects south of the Columbia can be found just off Interstate 5 in Old Town Wilsonville in the form of the old Methodist Church. A century-old wood frame structure with a traditional steeple and bell tower, the Old Church, as it now is known, is proving to be a successful live music venue in its latest incarnation.

With a host of original stained glass windows remaining, the church interior glows with a host of colors at sunset. Afterward, the brightly colored interior casts yellowish hues over its inhabitants, courtesy of the suitably dim overhead lighting.

The venue already is regularly playing  host to national touring acts, as well as some of the top Portland-area artists and bands, such as Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside and others. But the Old Church also is going out of its way to cater to the locals, and by that I mean within-the-city-limits local.

That  includes popular singer-songwriters Michele Van Kleef and Naomi LaViolette, both of whom play across the Northwest. Van Kleef gained recognition earlier in  her career with the popular jam band Calobo, while LaViolette currently is releasing her first solo record on Jan. 27  at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland.

Shown above and at right is Van Kleef at  the Old Church during a December performance alongside LaViolette and fellow Wilsonville singer Christina Cooper.

Despite the low lighting and limited shooting lanes caused by the seating arrangement, this was an enjoyable evening of photography. My favorite Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens is right at home in these conditions, as is my ancient, but still functional 50mm f1.4 prime lens.

The latter was made in the mid-1960s and is completely manual. So manual, in fact, that it contains nothing electronic. You simply set the aperture ring as intended, focus manually and shoot.

Using this lens is satisfying because it forces you to think more as a photographer when metering and considering camera settings. But it also  makes me grateful for the amazing autofocus and metering found even in my D300, which is far from Nikon’s best.

The image at bottom right was made with this 50mm lens, and shows off a shallow depth of field when set at f1.4.

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