Longtime opera singer Anne-Julia Audray searched far and wide for the perfect location for a performance hall. She found a home in the former Southold United Methodist Church, a building she recently described as beautiful.
Ms. Audray, the executive director of the Long Island Opera Company, and her husband, Oliver Chazareix, are transforming the historic church into a classical music concert and performance hall, which they hope to open by spring.
After being on the market for almost a year, the building sold for $1,025,000 and the sale closed July 30, said Bill Moore, an attorney and church trustee.
“We’re really looking forward to the next chapter,” the Rev. Tom McLeod said. “The people of the church, with anticipation of good things to come, hope that the new owner will thrive in their location and be a benefit and blessing to the town.”
Ms. Audray, who lives in Manhattan with Mr. Chazareix, said she looked online at every church for sale in New York before ultimately deciding on the one in Southold.
“It was the perfect size for two individuals, like my husband and I, to make this big place small enough … It’s perfect for [us] to do a festival in the summer with opera,” she said. “And during the year we will have different performances, like concerts.”
Ms. Audray described the building’s location as “a very peaceful environment,” with countrysides and fields reminiscent to her native France.
A 28-year opera singer who performed around the world before working for the Long Island Opera Company, Ms. Audray said she’s passionate about sharing the art of singing with everyone, and hopes to do so on the North Fork.
Since she and her husband live in New York City, they’ve been taking weekend trips to the island and have already begun bringing sheet music and instruments to the future music hall. They also plan to meet with Southold Town officials to determine when work on the building can officially begin.
“My baby grand [piano] arrived at the church on Saturday and I started to play in the church and that was magical,” Ms. Audray said.
The sale of the church is just one step of a three-part consolidation plan for the United Methodist churches in the Town of Southold.
In June 2014, Southold United Methodist Church closed and combined with Cutchogue United Methodist Church. The congregation was renamed North Fork United Methodist Church. Later, Greenport United Methodist Church closed and joined North Fork United Methodist Church.
According to Kristy Naddell, the Douglas Elliman real estate agent who worked on the sale of the Southold church, Greenport United Methodist Church was listed for sale late last month. The Cutchogue church has been on the market since last year.
The Rev. McLeod said the next step for the North Fork United Methodist Church is to purchase a new location for the congregation to build on. He said church officials are interested in a 2.5-acre property on Route 48 in Southold but no contracts have been signed yet.
“It’s pretty cool to see the plan come together in a way that it will benefit everyone, including not only the members of the church, but the town,” he said. “We’ll be able to provide services that a stronger, more centralized church is able to provide.”
Ms. Audray said she and Mr. Chazareix are also excited to give back to the community through music.
She hopes to unite people with different interests — singing, instrumentals, set design, costumes and more — when the hall is complete and ready for productions.
“Opera is one of the most natural and beautiful arts we have inside us,” she said. “So I’m thrilled to be able to bring that to the people in Southold and in the areas around it.”
(1) The Cutchogue United Methodist Church recently sold for more than $1 million. (Credit: file)
(2) Anne-Julia Audray, executive director of the Long Island Opera Company. (Credit, courtesy, Long Island Opera Company)