Chris Koza led his new folk-pop band, Rogue Valley, through a packed concert a couple weeks ago at the Fitzgerald Theatre to release the first of four seasonal albums they hope to put out this year. It’s a feat that would mark Koza, who’s quietly developed his composing chops since surfacing as a hot talent in 2004, as one of the year’s most ambitious musicians—here or in any town (that’s ambitious, not silly, Lady Gaga).
But that isn’t the whole of it. Every Sunday in May, Koza will take over Mercy Seat Lutheran in Northeast Minneapolis as the church’s latest composer-in-residence, reworking the Lutheran liturgy into a folk/pop arrangement he’s calling the “Song of the Earth Mass,” promising “occasionally mysterious chord progressions and ever-present vocal harmonies.”
Never mind that Lutherans shy from the term “mass,” clearly Mercy Seat is an open-minded venue—in fact, it may be the hippest place to hear any kind of music on a Sunday morning. Among the musicians it’s enlisted recently to re-imagine worship services are a who’s-who of Twin Cities cool—smart/cool, that is: Ben Kyle of Romantica, Linnea Mohn of Coach Said Not To, and jazz composers Jon Pemberton and Greg Schaeffer (featuring Nancy Harms). It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Mercy’s liturgical director is Wes Burdine, who rocks the house with The Small Cities when not rocking God’s house. If one needs any further proof that the artists of Northeast Minneapolis have matured into their community and its institutions, making them their one, well, see you in church.