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Jazz Vespers: Free Food for the Soul

noe tanigawa
noe tanigawa

This time of year, you can feel Honolulu’s major roadways clogging up from late afternoon.  As the pau  hana traffic mounts today, a few dozen people will head to an oasis of calm at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Queen Emma street downtown.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports on Jazz Vespers that happen every Thursday at St. Peter’s, starting at 6 in the evening.

noe tanigawa
Credit noe tanigawa
On this Thursday, Jazz Vespers featured quartet leader Reggie Padilla, sax; Jon Hawes, bass; Dan Del Negro, piano; and Mike Lewis, trumpet.

Jazz Vespers continue at St. Peter’s Church on Queen Emma Street downtown every Thursday.  The service runs from 6-6:45 and all are welcome to fellowship and a simple supper afterwards.  Thursday, December 22, 2016, DeShannon Higa will sub for Reggie Padilla, and Christmas Jazz Vespers are planned for December 29. 

Manny Dayao had an idea that jazz music and the spiritual quest could synergize, and the congregation at St. Peter’s Episcopalwas game.

“Some of our parishioners told me, I didn’t even know I liked jazz until I started coming and listening to these jazz musicians.”

These particular musicians happen to be some of Honolulu’s best:  Reggie Padilla, sax, Jon Hawes, bass, Dan Del Negro, piano, and on this night, Mike Lewis , trumpet.  Vocalist Starr Kalahiki is a regular performer.

Reverend Diane Martinson, who led the worship, says the audience, which ranges between forty and sixty a night, is diverse, especially in the holiday season.  Some add the service to regular church going, some would not otherwise find themselves in church.

“For those folks, Sunday morning traditional worship is not where they’re at anymore.”

Reverend Martinson calls this “church in a new way,” to touch the soul.

“Music can be from the secular realm but it comes from the soul.  It’s not like life is compartmental between sacred and profane, it’s a whole, right?  I think this touches that.”

We are in the Christian season of Advent, a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of the son of God.  Most scholars agree Jesus Christ was born between 6 and 4 BC, and there is evidence his birth date was switched from January 6th to December 25th in ancient times.  Jesus' preaching is thought to have occurred between AD 27-29 for one to three years, with his death probably between AD 30 and 36. 

At last Thursday’s service, Reverend Martinson spoke about the day a young woman, Mary, was visited by Archangel Gabriel.  Gabriel said Mary was favored by god and her womb would conceive his son.  Mary went for advice to Elizabeth, who said, you are blessed!  And Mary agreed; recalling God’s promises to the poor, hungry, and lowly, she accepted the life growing inside her.

“Mary is proclaiming a radically different social order, and this young woman was transformed to let God become intimately a part of her.  So tonight I invite you to reflect upon what would it be for your life to be transformed in that way?  What would it mean to submit to God’s presence in and through you?  What would it mean to feel the hunger, that hunger within yourself?” 

Jazz Vespers is a chance to pray or to mull over your day, your relationships, your aim, your trajectory, it's what you make of it, really.  Dayao, Martinson, et al simply provide a most conducive venue.  

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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