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By Deborah Moore Clark
Please join us Sunday, April 2, and experience A Little Jazz Mass for mixed voices offered during 11:00am Worship by the Chancel Choir. The 12-minute work by British composer Bob Chilcott sets to music the Latin Missa brevis in a variety of jazz styles. “The ‘Kyrie’ has real groove, the ‘Gloria’ swings, the ‘Sanctus’ sits right back, the ‘Benedictus’ hums along, and the ‘Agnus Dei’ draws inspiration from the Blues” (jacket). The work, “underpinned by a characterful piano accompaniment,” will be played by jazz pianist Phillip Howe. To that, add a soulful mix of upright string bass by Ron Brendle, and Ocie Davis playing along ad lib on trap (drum) set. The work, originally written for upper voices (SSA), premiered in the great jazz city of New Orleans in June 2004.
Jazz is a kind of indigenous American music of the early 20th century. The genre grew out of several kinds of earlier American music: minstrel-show music, early brass bands, early string bands, ragtime, and blues. Of these influences, jazz is most closely allied with ragtime and blues. In its earliest stages, jazz was rarely notated, and instrumental parts were composed spontaneously by performers who often could not read music (Apel 440).
“The distinguishing characteristic of ragtime is its persistent syncopation, as opposed to the incidental syncopation found in classical music” (Apel 440), so be prepared to experience the jazzy jostling of the “jazz beat, where the emphasis is shifted from the strong beat and frequently falls on fragments of the beat. It is characterized by anticipations of the beat and of the afterbeat” (Apel 441) and creates a toe-tapping, finger-snapping, hard-to-resist sensation!
To this rhythmic mix, you’ll hear the melodic style of “blue notes” (flatted thirds and sevenths in the major keys), plus slurs and portamentos. In addition to that, expect instrumental accompanists to add sevenths to chords, enriching the harmony. “Sanctus” and “Agnus Dei” in Jazz Mass are the most “bluesy” of the movements: gentle, rocking, and serenely peaceful.
Jazz was born when these components of ragtime and blues came together (Apel 441). A Little Jazz Mass is one of Chilcott’s most celebrated and popular choral works, which has had countless performances, both in concert venues and as part of sung liturgy in worship the world over (© Oxford University Press). We hope you will join us in worship for this musical liturgical experience.
Apel, Willi. Harvard Dictionary of Music. 2nd ed. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1979.
Composer/Jacket Notes © Oxford UP.
Wikipedia.org, Drum kit, January 26, 2017.
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