Chicago; New York City; Leipzig and Berlin, Germany; Nitra, Slovakia.
That’s the lineup and world-tour for ELCA member Andy Tecson for the performances of “Eternal, Victorious Light, A Jazz Passion and Resurrection.” Tecson will perform as part of a trio that includes world-renowned pianist Bobby Schiff and Ken Jandes, a Presbyterian and Tecson’s former high school saxophone and composition teacher and now fellow ChurchJazz ensemble member.
The “Jazz Passion” is an hour-long work written for choir, vocal quartet, several soloists and a12-piece jazz ensemble and is returning to the stage
as part of the ELCA’s Reformation anniversary grant program, having originally premiered in March 2010 at St Luke’s Lutheran Church in Chicago. A YouTube video in which creators Pastor David Abrahamson, Schiff, Tecson and Bobby Lewis can be seen here. The topics include: the origin and creative process, translating text from Bible stories into contemporary language and using jazz composition to tell the Gospel story.
Awarded jointly to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of New York City and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Chicago, the grant is one of 19 given to assist with the ELCA’s 500th Reformation anniversary observances to support those who seek to promote a wider understanding of the Reformation message and its significance for faith and life in the 21st century.
“This appears to be the first time that the Passion of Christ has been set to music using jazz,” said Tecson, who leads the ChurchJazz ensemble and composed the music with Schiff and Bobby Lewis. The Rev. David Abrahamson wrote the libretto.
For the New York, Chicago and Slovakia performances, Tecson will play tenor sax, his usual instrument. For the Germany performances, he will play the alto sax. Jandes will play baritone sax. Schiff will play piano for all of the performances.
The significance of the music style, Tecson explained, lies in the emotional connection. “This piece combines the power of jazz harmonies and rhythms with the power of the gospel message to create something new: the capacity of jazz to express the entire range of emotion matched with the extraordinary spiritual journey of the last days of Christ’s ministry,” he said. “The music matches the progression from the communal worship at the Last Supper through the agony of death and loss into the joyous celebration of new life. The text and music are completely interwoven.”
The trio will travel in early March from Chicago to participate in the German Lutheran Church conference and join a host of German talent, including conductor Raphael Thöne and a jazz department ensemble, all from the Hochschule for Musik Theater and Medien Hannover, one of the great jazz programs in Germany. They will be joined by a choir of the Musik Schule Leipzig and the Heinrich-Schutz Konservatorium Dresden, e.V., led by jazz singer Sabine Helmbold.
With performances in both the U.S. and Europe, these musicians are aware of the significance of the music and locations.
“The celebration of the ‘Jazz Passion’ in Leipzig on Saturday, March 4, provides a contemporary expression of the power and majesty of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us in the city in which Bach’s powerful and majestic Passions were composed and continue to be performed,” said Tecson. “This work is also consistent with Luther’s use of music to spread the gospel message.”
Following the performance in Leipzig, the trio will perform the piece on Sunday, March 5, in the American Church in Berlin, which is led by the Rev. Stephan Kienberger of the ELCA.
Upon their return to the U.S., they will perform the eight annual Chicago performance on April 2 at 4 p.m. at St. Luke Lutheran Church, 1500 W Belmont, Chicago. Then, on Palm Sunday, April 9, at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 619 Lexington, New York City, and will be joined by trumpet player and co-composer Lewis. They will be also joined by a small, four-student jazz choir from Valparaiso University including Hannah Newman-Jacobs, Kelly Langevin, Jeffrey Langevin and Samuel Macy. Dr. Christopher Cock, director of Valporaiso’s choral department and chair of its Bach Institute, will prepare the students and accompany them to New York.
Following the New York City concert, the trio will perform in Nitra, Slovakia, at the University of Constantine the Philosopher on April 12.
Those who are unable to attend any of the five performances can view the work in 12 chapters on YouTube.
Additionally, those who would like to hear the studio recording can find it on iTunes by searching for “churchjazz ensemble.”
Photos from Germany Performances: March 2017