News Column

Jazz Mass Starts Sunday's Schedule At Hartford Jazz Festival

July 20, 2014

By Hilda MuÑoz, The Hartford Courant

July 20--HARTFORD -- Bouncy, jazzy tunes filled Christ Church Cathedral during a New Orleans-style Mass Sunday, organized as part of the 23rd Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz.

A mix of spirituals, gospels and music by Duke Ellington, performed by the Ross Tucker Hot Cat Dixieland Jazz Band, punctuated the readings and sermon, which focused on the value of community.

The Mass was a way for the church to take part in a community event and to draw in people visiting Hartford, said worshipers and church officials.

"It ties in to everything with the community. It's an opportunity for visitors for a chance to worship in the spirit of the Jazz Festival," said the Rev. Donald Richey.

Many of the churchgoers sang to the music, some snapped their fingers, other clapped.

The festival began Friday night at Bushnell Park with Latin and smooth jazz by Manuel Valera and David Sanborn.

"Everything that could go right went right," said Jazz Festival President Charles Christie. "David Sanborn was incredible. The man lit up the stage. People loved it."

He estimated that 30,000 people attended the first night. Saturday night must have topped that number, he said.

"All I can tell you is there was a sea of people," he said.

The Dixieland Jazz Mass started 15 years ago at the suggestion of Christ Church Cathedral, Christie said.

"The mass has more of a New Orleans flavor and it lined up with what we were doing," he said.

During her sermon, the Rev. Molly James said cathedrals are majestic places designed to be filled with beautiful music and the voices of those praising God. They are also gathering places that draw people from all over to worship, she said.

The jazz Mass draws in twice the usual number of people, Richey said.

Hugh Jackson, a member of Christ Church Cathedral since 1989, showed more spirit than most at the mass. Dressed in a ruffled shirt, jacket and top hat, he danced his way out of the cathedral while the band played its final number, "O When the Saints."

"For me, personally, it's the first time for a whole year that we get to let our head down," he said. "The music during the regular season is very nice music, but no one gets up and dances. It's great to get up and let off steam."

The festival is scheduled to continue Sunday at the pavilion stage at Bushnell Park, starting at 4:30 p.m. The last performer goes on at 7:30 p.m.


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Source: Hartford Courant (CT)

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