Monday, May 3, 2010

Sacred Jazz and Sacred Ground

Good Monday morning to you all.

It is a beautifully sunny morning here in Chicago. Here's a photo I took as I stood on the platform of Chicago's "Green Line" about an hour ago as I waited for my train.

This past weekend was a special one at St. James, my parish. On Saturday evening, the parish held its annual fundraiser for our food pantry. It's a jazz concert, which we call "Jazzin' to Feed." The pastor told us yesterday that they raised over forty thousand dollars for the pantry.

Each year, the Sunday Masses on the day following the event are Masses that feature jazz-styled music. Usually a group from Saint Peter's in the Loop here in Chicago lead the music. This year was a bit different. Our new music director happens to be an accomplished jazz musician. He invited two of his friends, a bass player and a drummer, to join him. We sang our usual selections of Easter Season music, but it all had more of a "jazz feel." After communion, the jazz musicians and the choir led us all in a meditation, Duke Ellington's Come Sunday. Here's a link to a youtube video with Mahalia Jackson singing the piece. I need to tell you that this piece was, in a word, sacred. My heart was lifted to the Lord as it was played and sung.

Can the jazz genre be classified as sacred? After my experience on Sunday, I came away with a resounding "yes."

After Mass, we all processed over to a patch of land next to our church building. There has been a small plot of land cleared. Eight parishioners and two clients from our food pantry will be planting gardens there. The pastor blessed the plot of land and invited us to sprinkle the land with holy water. Here are a few photos:

I hope your day is a good one and that the coming week is a fruitful one for you.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


byte228 said...

Makes me think of Dave Brubeck's To Hope! Mass that he wrote. Definitely has his Jazz influences in it. :)

Charles said...

Jerry, though I don't share byte's enthusiasm for the Brubeck Mass, I remain enthralled by the decade's old MISSA GAIA (anathema to my CMAA friends, doubtless) as conceived by the Paul Winter Consort. If you've never taken that in, gotta listen, gotta pray it.

Chironomo said...

To quote George Takei....

"Oh My...!!!"

Is there a difference between "inspirational" or "meaningful" and "Sacred"? I think there is, and while Ms. Jackson's performance is ceratinly the former, I have doubts about how that makes the composition the latter.

But I think this is one area where there can be no real agreement because there are profoundly different criteria being employed for determining what is "sacred" as far as music is concerned at least. Don't misunderstand...I have a great appreciation for Jazz and a considerable collection myself. Excellent for sipping a good Brandy and unwinding at the end of the day. Not so sure about it's appropriateness for expressing the unspoken aspects of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and our participation in the unbloody sacrifice of the altar. Perhaps it would work if the assembly sat at small round tables instead of in pews and we were allowed to smoke....

Todd said...

Missa Gaia, yes, and one or two portions of it are great. Personally, I love the Agnus Dei from Donald Reagan's Mass in a Jazz Style, and some portions of Leon Roberts' Mass of Saint Augustine.

I remember a chat with Michael Cymbala at GIA back in 1986 at an NPM convention where the Roberts Mass was used for the closing liturgy. GIA wasn't sure about cd's at the time--long before the publishers started shipping throwaway cd's in the mail. They didn't seem to sure about producing a recording of this music ... until the attendees blew the roof off the convention center.

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

There's a reference to Jazz in the DOL compilation basically saying that Jazz is not a permissible style of music to introduce into the liturgy. I can get the reference later.

I'm not saying this to be some liturgical document police, but simply to bring up the point that the certain liturgical authorities in the Church have made decisions about the appropriateness of liturgical Jazz.