Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jazzing up the Vespers for MLK

Stomping and clapping, we all enjoyed the music together at The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew (SsAM) during the celebration for the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A full church in downtown Wilmington on a rainy, cold Sunday is quite a feat. In addition to the singer, Tiffany Jones, the keyboard player, Jeffrey Knoettner, the drummer, Harry “Butch” Reed and Micah Jones, Bassist, the church’s adult choir and organist/music director, David Christopher, performed. The Reverend Rod Welles opened the evening with the beautiful, powerful words of Dr. King: “When life itself offers on order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow from his instrument.”

For a moment, I forgot I was in church. Though we sang the traditional Episcopalian Psalm and intoned chant, with the Bishop of the Diocese of Delaware Wayne Wright sitting nearby, the musicians transported us with their solos and improvisation. Tiffany Jones’ sultry voice was perfect for “Feeling Good”. Her fresh interpretation was a welcome change from the Nina Simone’s doctored-up, almost masculine version of the song.

Keyboardist Jeffrey Knoettner rocked the house in Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” This purely instrumental piece gave him, Harry Reed and Micah Jones a chance to show off their virtuosity and tight ensemble. The Adult Choir seemed to enjoy every moment of the performance, participating with nods and head-bobs, even while they weren’t singing. Reverend Welles invited the audience to join in singing “We Shall Overcome” and spontaneously hands reached out from every direction in the church, to form a giant connecting bond.

It was a fitting tribute for Dr. King---the kind of event you felt he spoke of and envisioned---bringing all people together in celebration and honor.


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