BU to present “Sacred Jazz” music program

BLOOMSBURG—The Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania Concert Choir will be joined by The Lyric Consort and a host of regional jazz artists and church choir members on Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bloomsburg for a program of “Sacred Jazz.”  The program is free and open to the public.

The Reverend William Carter and his jazz ensemble, Presbybop, will be joined by saxophonist Nelson Hill to provide the instrumentals for two standards of the sacred jazz repertoire, Vince Guaraldi “Jazz Mass,” created in 1965 for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and Brian Barlow’s 1999 “Reflections and Meditations on the Byrd Mass for Four Voices.” Jordan Markham, organist and director of music at Wesley United Methodist Church will join with Hill to accompany members of the Wesley Choir and the Bloomsburg University Concert Choir in selected movements from James Whitbourn’s 2001 “Son of God Mass.”

The Guaraldi Mass is the first Jazz Mass to be performed in the U.S. On the eve of the debut his beloved music for the “Charlie Brown Christmas Special,” the yet-to-be-famous composer was approached by Grace Cathedral to create a modern worship experience that would appeal to younger worshippers. He selected hymns and service music from the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal and arranged accompaniments for them by a small jazz ensemble, adding, as well, separate instrumental compositions for the offertory and communion. His music, however, was either lost or never notated, until Rev. Carter transcribed performance materials from historical recordings in 2015. This performance will mark the first time the piece has been heard in Bloomsburg and will feature singers from the church choirs of both St. Paul’s Episcopal and the First Presbyterian churches of Bloomsburg. Markham, and Mara O’Malley, director of music for First Presbyterian, will solo on selected portions of the Guaraldi Mass.

Completing the program, The Lyric Consort, northeast Pennsylvania’s premier acappella ensemble, will sing William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices, a masterpiece of the late renaissance, with additional jazz accompaniments and improvisational movements created by Brian Barlow in 1999.

A recognized leader in the burgeoning movement to bring jazz into mainstream Christian worship, Rev. Carter will speak at 7 p.m. on the history of the Guaraldi Mass and the wider topic of Jazz in Worship. The music will then begin at 7:30 p.m.. Freewill donations will be accepted at the conclusion of the concert and used to seed similar future programs.

This program is supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Bloomsburg University College of Liberal Arts Curricular Enhancement Fund, and the Bloomsburg University Foundation’s Concert Choir Fund.