Monday has dawned cool and gray here in Chicago.
When I was working full-time as a director of music and liturgy, I always loved "Good Shepherd Sunday" because of the wonderful array of "shepherd music" available for use. I remember conducting John Rutter's The Lord Is My Shepherd in my parish in Florida. It didn't hurt that the principal oboist for the Orlando Symphony Orchestra was a parishioner!
Yesterday at my parish we celebrated our annual "Jazz Mass." This Mass occurs on the weekend when we have our annual fundraiser for the Saint James food pantry, called "Jazzin' to Feed." Our parish is in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, where much jazz, blues, gospel, and soul music originated. So our "Jazz Mass" reaches deeply into the roots of this community.
Our music director holds an advanced degree in jazz piano performance and was joined yesterday by two jazz musicians, one on drums, the other on string bass. Basically, at the Jazz Mass we sing much of our usual repertoire; it is just given a certain jazz style. Our opening hymn was Alan Hommerding's fine text Baptized in Living Waters, set to the tune AURELIA (for those not into hymn tunes, think of the melody of The Church's One Foundation). It was amazing to sing such a traditional tune in a jazz style. Ed Bolduc's Mass of Saint Ann sounded wonderful as well. A real high point for me came when these musicians played an arrangement of Marty Haugen's Shepherd Me, O God, arranged by our music director. Folks, it was absolutely heavenly. Sure, it takes a minute or two to get used to hearing jazz chords and harmonic structures at Mass, but this was real prayer. And, especially given the fact that it was being played in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago where much jazz got its start, it was all the more special.
When I got to the office this morning, I had the strains of The King of Love My Shepherd Is noodling around in my head. We sang it yesterday as well. And I couldn't help but think of James Scavone's fine (and non-jazzy!) arrangement of this hymn. So here is a snippet for your listening pleasure for this "Good Shepherd Week."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.