A Jesuit seminary in Minnesota is a long way — geographically and theologically — from the Unitarian Universalist church in Bedford.
But that distance, literally and symbolically, reflects the span that singer/songwriter Peter Mayer has traveled over the past 30 years or so.
On Saturday, Mayer offers a unique evening of song and guitar — with some expert hand-drumming thrown in as well — at First Parish in Bedford, with the concert’s proceeds benefiting UU Mass Action, a statewide social justice organization that carries out the Unitarian Universalist commitment to affirm the worth and dignity of all people.
Unlike many professional musicians, Mayer did not have a childhood influenced by music.
His family in general had little interest in instrument lessons, Mayer said, and he didn’t have spending money to buy records, so he listened to whatever was on the radio.
“This was the ’60s and ’70s, so what I found there was James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Elton John — the same musicians who still influence my work today,” Mayer said. “My brother owned a guitar, but I played it better than he did, even without formal lessons. I was self-taught. To this day, he still grumbles good-naturedly about the fact that I was always better at playing his guitar than he was.”
Mayer stayed in his native Minnesota for college and studied theology; soon after earning his degree, he entered the Jesuit seminary. But when pushed after two years to take priestly vows, Mayer balked, then left the seminary and took a job as the music director for a Catholic church.
Free of the restrictions of the seminary, Mayer started performing at clubs while honing his songwriting skills. After eight years, he quit the job as music director, got married, and released his second CD. He and his wife made the decision together that it was time for him to pursue his passion for singing and songwriting full time, and that has been his main focus ever since.
His wife serves as his booking agent; Mayer takes care of their two young children, and travels from their Minnesota home all around the country for performances on the weekends.
“My repertoire consists almost solely of work I wrote myself,” Mayer said. “I think of myself primarily as a songwriter. I have to be an appealing enough singer and guitarist to carry a show, but what really engages me is the songwriting process.
“Songwriting, of course, is a combination of melody and lyrics. Sometimes the two components emerge separately. Ideas come and go so quickly; I try to record them any time they come into my head, whether I need to use a computer, a phone or a scrap of paper to get the idea down.”
In the course of starting a family, writing songs and becoming a performer, Mayer also gradually made the transition from the Catholic Church to the Unitarian Universalist faith, a transformation perhaps best reflected in what he considers one of his signature songs, “Holy Now.”
“It’s the idea of the world as we know it being a sacred place,” he said. “I don’t mean that in any supernatural way, but that nature itself is perhaps the most sacred thing in our existence. It’s an expression of my own journey: religiously, spiritually, and personally.”
Though he is prolific, with nine CDs already recorded and a 10th one under way, Mayer admits to having a special fondness for the experience of performing live rather than recording.
“When I perform, I’m engaged in a conversation with the audience. I always feel so privileged to sit on a stage and have somebody, anybody, pay attention to me for two hours. It’s very humbling, and not something I ever take for granted,” he said.
On Saturday night, Mayer will be joined by Boston-based hand-drumming phenomenon Matt Meyer, another musician who has found a niche for himself in the world music tradition of the Unitarian Universalist church. The performance starts at 8 p.m. at First Parish in Bedford, 75 Great Road. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, and can be ordered online at www.uumassaction.org .
AMAZING MARIONETTES: The Tanglewood Marionettes, a Ware-based troupe that performs across the country, on Sunday will present two shows, “Fairy Circus” at 10:30 a.m. and “An Arabian Adventure” at 1 p.m., at the Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St. in Arlington.
The shows will feature more than 20 beautifully hand-crafted marionettes demonstrating turn-of-the-century-style trick puppetry as they dance, play instruments, juggle, contort, transform, and fly through the air. Tickets are $8; $6 for children.For tickets or more information, call 781-646-4849 or go to www.regenttheatre.com.
CELEBRATING WOMEN: WBZ-TV meteorologist Melissa Mack serves as emcee for the MetroWest Women’s Alliance second annual Ruby Slippers Gala, taking place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center, 1657 Worcester Road (Route 9) in Framingham.
The networking and fund-raising event will highlight the MetroWest Women’s Alliance and its contributions to women and girls in the region.
The event’s keynote speaker will be Laura Schroff, author of “An Invisible Thread.’’ Tickets are $75.
To register for the event or for more information, call 508-370-4857 or go online to www.uwotc.org .
CLASSICAL PIANO: The Boston Artists Ensemble opens its 2012-13 season with a piano trio concert Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 11 Homer St. in Newton Centre.
The program includes Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio (Op. 70, No. 1), and Mendelssohn’s Trio in C minor (Op. 66, No. 2). Tickets are $27, or $12 for students. For details, visit www.bostonartistsensemble.org.
JAZZ TRADITION: The Acton Jazz Café presents the music of the Phill Argyris Quintet playing in the classic American jazz tradition Friday from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Admission is $12 at the door at 452 Great Road, or $10 in advance. For more information, call 978-263-6161 or go to www.actonjazzcafe.com.
BENEFIT CONCERT: Period chamber music ensemble Musicians of the Old Post Road hosts a gala concert and fund-raiser at the Danforth Museum of Art, 123 Union Ave. in Framingham, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Proceeds will benefit the ensemble’s Fund for the Future capital campaign, launched in 2011. The gala, to be hosted by Laura Carlo of WGBH’s Classical New England radio program, will feature performances of some of the ensemble’s most significant rediscovered repertoire, fine catered fare, champagne, and a silent auction.
Tickets are $125; to purchase or for information, call 781-466-6694, or go to www.oldpostroad.org.
IMAGES OF MIDDLE EAST: Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum is presenting “100 Steps to the Mediterranean,’’ the first major US museum exhibition for photographer/videographer Dor Guez, through Dec. 9.
Guez, whose heritage is both Christian Palestinian and Jewish Tunisian, uses his art to raise questions about history, nationality, ethnicity, and personal identity.
There is no admission fee to the museum, which is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m at 415 South St. in Waltham.
For more information, call 781-736-3434 or go online to www.brandeis.edu/rose.