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Songwriters at Relish event brings together town, College through music

From+left%3A+Mark+Laver+and+Erik+Jarvis+%6012+performing+in+the+dining+room+of+the+restaurant+Relish+at+834+Park+St.
Sun Yuvachitti
From left: Mark Laver and Erik Jarvis `12 performing in the dining room of the restaurant Relish at 834 Park St.

Relish – a catering-only restaurant located at 834 Park St. – opened up its doors for three music performances to a crowded audience of Grinnell community members in the dining room of the establishment. This Songwriters at Relish event was hosted by married co-owners Kamal Hammouda and Laura Fendt and organized by Erik Jarvis `12, music technical assistant at Grinnell College. The event presented performers Sophia Corinne, duo Jarvis and Mark Laver, associate professor of music and Frannie Crego `25. 

 Corinne strummed an acoustic guitar while her  vocals alternated between soft crooning and strong belting. Jarvis accompanied his keyboard skills with narrative lyrics and Laver’s saxophone playing. Crego’s lilting voice showed off her tonal capabilities. 

 Songwriters at Relish was not the restaurant’s first taste of live music. Jarvis said that Hammouda hosted similar events around a decade ago. 

“We’ve always had live music and all kinds of cultural events in Relish,” Hammouda said. “We have always been interested in this side of the entertainment business, and they’ve always been successful.” He said that Jarvis has been one of the most integral people in the organizing process. 

 Even after the Relish co-owners ended full service of the establishment in 2022 – instead opting to only provide catered meals – performances have continued to occur there. 

“Since it closed, I’ve been really keen on getting it back on track,” Hammouda said. 

For example, in the Spring 2023 semester, Laver, along with Putu Hiranmayena, assistant processor of music, had an experimental music set. 

For this particular event on Wednesday, Oct. 4, Corinne messaged Jarvis looking for a show in Iowa while she was on tour around the country. A songwriter himself, Jarvis said that he prefers playing in Grinnell, particularly at Relish. 

When Jarvis suggested the performance to Hammouda, he said it was “a no-brainer.”

 Hammouda said that the audience for these events is a cross-section of the entire community, which includes the College. 

“I love music, and there are so many other people who love music,” he said. “It really brings the community together to share the joyful event.” 

 Jarvis said that both Fendt and Hammouda have always been interested in the community-building aspects that live music brings to Grinnell. In having a staff member and student from the College playing with an out-of-town artist at a local business and nonprofit, the evening depicted Grinnell as eclectic, said Jarvis.

Crego became involved with the Songwriters at Relish event after helping to make a live music series happen while working at Hotel Grinnell this past summer. Jarvis had done similar work in the community, so she reached out for advice, and he later learned that she was also a singer-songwriter. Crego said that about a month ago, he suggested she play at the event this past Wednesday.

 Crego said that she enjoys playing music in town, as she performed at Hotel Grinnell herself a few times. As community members have begun to recognize her at the multiple events, Crego said she has felt a connection with the town. 

 “Every time I get to see someone at a show a second time – which is crazy because I’ve only played a handful of times – that just means the world, and it’s fun to share that with people,” Crego said.

 Both Jarvis and Hammouda said that they would like people on campus who want to stage similar events to contact Jarvis at jarviserik@grinnell.edu.

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About the Contributors
Krista Spies, Arts Editor
Krista Spies is a fourth-year English and Spanish major from St. Louis, MO. She loves writing about the arts almost as much as getting tattooed, and she hopes to turn going to concerts into a full-time job.
Sun Yuvachitti, Staff Photographer
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