Jazz lovers mark your calendars, the opening performance of the Church of the Advent’s 11th annual Jazz Vespers Series is coming soon.
Leading off the popular musical series this Sunday (Sept. 20) is award-winning jazz and blues singer Maureen Washington. The Victoria songstress, named best jazz and soul artist in the 2014 Black Canadian Awards, will be backed by fellow musical notables Karel Roessingh on piano, Joey Smith on bass and Damian Graham on drums.
“She’s a great way to start off,” says the church’s pastor, Rev. Ken Gray, of Washington. “We don’t generally include vocalists, but I think it’ll be a singing, swinging time.”
Church of the Advent music director David Enns is responsible for charting the course for the popular series. He’s a musician himself who has connections around the jazz community and has, for some time now, routinely landed nationally and internationally known musicians to play at Jazz Vespers, Gray says.
The reverend notes that the Vespers services are the “only regular jazz gig on the West Shore.” He estimates that of the 80 to 150 people who usually attend these monthly Sunday night combinations of music and subtle biblical messages, three-quarters are not “church people.”
“We’re talking more about the transitions and the themes of life,” he says. “Generally people feel engaged because we meet them where they are.”
Similar to how musicians improvise their performances, Gray says he often switches up his original plan for the accompanying reading for Vespers. “I usually pick a scripture passage ahead of time, but nine times out of 10, I change whatever plan I had because something strikes me. I improvise using words, they improvise using music.”
The Jazz Vespers services happen the third Sunday of the month at 7 p.m., except during December. Church of the Advent is at 510 Mount View Ave., off Sooke Road in Colwood. Admission is a free will offering, as with any other church service.