Tonight I was blessed (through the quick thinking of my good friend Christy, who purchased our tickets for this sold-out performance the very morning they went on sale) to again sit in the Helzberg hall in Kauffman Center, for Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration. I wasn't prepared for the emotion or the scale of the experience: a 15-piece jazz band including the legendary Wynton Marsalis, backed by a 70-member Gospel chorus in their long red robes, and led by a talented and fiery conductor who hand-picked his choir: Damien Sneed. (Photos are a combo of mine & Christy's.)
Here's the writeup from Marsalis's website: "JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA WITH WYNTON MARSALIS and CHORALE LE CHATEAU CONDUCTED BY DAMIEN SNEED. ABYSSINIAN: A GOSPEL CELEBRATION! Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass, a landmark collaboration of jazz, gospel, instrumentation and vocals, tours U.S. performing arts centers and churches. Raise your voices and lift your hearts as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Damien Sneed, and the 70-piece Chorale Le Chateau announce Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration Tour, an historic hand–clappin’, tambourine-slappin’ celebration scheduled to take place in performing arts centers and churches in the U.S.
On this unique tour, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Damien Sneed, and Chorale Le Chateau will perform Marsalis’ composition Abyssinian Mass, a landmark collaboration of jazz, gospel, instrumentation, and vocals. The Abyssinian Gospel Tour kicks off in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on October 3 and ends in Boston, Massachusetts on October 27.
Since Marsalis composed and recorded In This House, On This Morning two decades ago, he has remained committed to projecting a theme of universal humanism — and raising a joyful noise —while reflecting the form of the African American church service. Never has Marsalis coalesced the codes of sacred and secular expression more successfully than with the 2008 extended work Abyssinian Mass, commissioned to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Abyssinian Baptist Church on West 138th Street in Harlem."
All I can say is, big thanks to Wynton Marsalis, his talented peers, and to Damien Sneed and his Chorale Le Chateau. SUCH a fun and energetic performance… From my seat I was able to see Damien's expressions and gestures intimately throughout the show, as well as all the performers—the incredible joy and passion was evident throughout. We were blessed to have you visit KC. Please come back soon!
Wynton's Facebook post—and also a reaction from Hilary Swank, who was apparently in attendance—about the experience:
Last night we played in the impressive Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It is an architectural marvel, a masterful piece of community development, and it is a new and defining landmark in the home of supersonic genius alto saxophonist, Charlie Parker.
We played to a packed house in full Saturday night finery, glowing with the anticipation and expectation that attends the presence of a large ensemble of musicians and fellow citizens anointed in the red robes of the Holy. Every community sits in its hall a different way. This is the Midwest, and our audience surrounds us. Though even the ghost of Boss Pendergast is long gone, these are still good time, no-nonsense people. They sit in a concentrated silence and we are engulfed in their feeling.
We almost always have great local musicians come out. Sometimes they grace us with a song. For jazz lovers, Kansas City means Bobby Watson, and the great alto man sat in with us last time we were here. Last night, we were blessed with the presence of one of our genius actors, Ms. Hilary Swank. She was in attendance with members of her family and listened with the same sophistication, concentration and sensitivity that defines her superb acting. She has agreed to write today's post:
Wynton Marsalis never ceases to amaze. His music always touches me profoundly and sends me traveling somewhere new and wondrous. He and the orchestra are supremely diverse, stunningly brilliant and always pushing the bar higher. Last night in Kansas City, Missouri, I had the privilege to witness Wynton’s latest masterpiece. A Gospel Celebration called: Abyssinian Mass. My words fall short in describing this awe inspiring performance, but once again, the music transformed and lifted the entire audience.
The full Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra along with a 70 piece choir was masterfully conducted by the stunning Damien Sneed. Perhaps what amazed me most was witnessing such an immense size ensemble, listening to each other with such sensitivity and “playing off” of one another with such grace and aplomb! Wynton's music sees life through so many different perspectives and tonight it was through God. — Hilary