Rafters and Reverb: Midtown Songwriter Series Returns to City Presbyterian

Midtown Sessions – Cameron Neal of Horse Thief from OKC Midtowner on Vimeo.

If you’re looking for respite from smokey bars and the clatter of well bottles coupled with drowned tones of local songwriters, come to City Presbyterian tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Midtown Songwriter Series offers an atmosphere rarely captured in the corners our city’s usual performance dwellings. Intimacy is the mantra, and the series once again aims to deliver a listening experience uninterrupted by the distractions that typically accompany solo performances.

Tonight, musicians Jose Hernandez, Cameron Neal (of Horse Thief), and Samantha Crain will shed extraneous venue noise and big band sounds for an evening of reverence to songwriting within the walls of a renovated church built in 1920.

On Wednesday, we were able to take refuge from the dreary weather in the rafters of City Pres to film a preview of what to expect from the series’ second installment and gain some insight from creator and gatekeeper. While Midtown Songwriter Series is a new showcase, the concept’s storyline goes back a bit further than September, when it made its debut. Creator Tyler Hopkins and Pastor Bobby Griffith met years back when Tyler’s idea was still in its infancy, as was Griffith’s goal for a unique community congregation.

“The idea was to create a show, a series rather, where there was a listening room atmosphere. But I wanted to do something that wasn’t a house show. Something bigger. I had talked to Bobby years ago before there was a City Presbyterian, and he said, ‘Someday I’m going to have a church, and someday that church is going to have a building, and someday we’re going to use that building for things within the community that aren’t church-sponsored events’,” said Hopkins, gesturing to Griffith for assured reminiscence.

They met up again shortly after City Pres opened its doors in the spring. Hopkins held him to the musings of a loaned space for local musicians.

“The Mule, yes. We were at The Mule,” said Griffith. “Moscow mule,” he recalls, pointing to Hopkins from his perch on the steps. “Bourbon for me.”

“And basically everything fell into place,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins organized the inaugural showcase in September, which featured solo performances by Beau Jennings, Chase Kerby and Hopkins himself. The church proved to be precisely what he and the songwriting community had been yearning for.

“There is a certain sense of reverence that people have when they walk in here, whether they’re religious or not. I think its really conducive to creating a show where songwriters show their art. And we saw that at the first show.”

For round two, he’s changed up the approach to the bill, with the hopes of drawing a more diverse crowd. Jose Hernandez, who Hopkins describes as big voice with a lot of grit, kicks off the evening, followed by the haunting acoustics of Cameron Neal (of Horse Thief), who you rarely see solo. Samantha Crain, whose presence on stage is unrelentingly powerful, anchors.

These three sharing steeple space for an evening isn’t something that comes around all too often, so we recommend sliding into the front pews to get acquainted with the intimate side of some soulful Oklahoma talent.

Oh, and free beer for those of age.


  • Where: City Presbyterian Church
  • When: 7:30 p.m.
  • Cost: $10


 Video by Josh Robinson



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