Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Additional 'Grace' notes

2015 was a big year for Guaraldi, with 50th anniversary celebrations of both his score for A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the May 1965 debut of his Grace Cathedral Jazz Mass. The latter prompted two commemorative presentations of the Mass: the first in a concert setting that showcased Guaraldi's music, and took place August 15 at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral; the second a "replica" liturgical service that took place September 6 at the First Presbyterian Church in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.

St. John's Episcopal Church, Boulder, Colorado
Preparations for both were followed avidly by the Rev. Bruce Swinehart, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Bruce corresponded enthusiastically with Jim Martinez, who orchestrated the San Francisco event; Bill Carter, who mounted the Pennsylvania service; and me, contributing whatever I could from the sidelines. Bruce eventually revealed his own plans for a presentation of Guaraldi's Mass, also in a church setting: a development I've followed with great interest.

2015 got away from him, but — proving once again that there's no such thing as too many commemorative honors — Colorado's own Guaraldi Mass has been scheduled for this Sunday, June 19, the fifth Sunday after Pentacost, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder. The Rev. Swinehart will be the guest preacher, drawing from the sermon given by the Rev. Malcolm Boyd back in 1965, during the original Grace Cathedral Mass. The music will be performed by the Eric Gunnison Trio, a well-known local jazz ensemble. The St. John's Choir will be directed by Tom Morgan, known for leading the 36-member Ars Nova Singers, a nationally recognized ensemble celebrating its 30th anniversary this season.

The Rev. Bruce Swinehart
Bruce has taken pains to use the same hymns — all still in the Episcopal hymnal — that were sung by the San Francisco congregation during that original service. "I got them from an original bulletin from the May 1965 service," Bruce explains, "which Charles Gompertz very generously gave me, when I met him last year. It even has his notations in the margins, indicating which pieces were to be included in the subsequent Fantasy Records album."

The anticipated program is as follows:

Processional Hymn: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"
Collection for Purity
  + "Lord Have Mercy" (arrangement by Guaraldi)
Collection for the Day
Old Testament Lesson
  + Gradual Hymn: "Come Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire"
Holy Gospel: Luke 8:26-39
Sermon by The Rev. Swinehart
  + "Nicene Creed" (arrangement by Guaraldi)
Prayers of the People
The Peace
The Offerings of the People
  + Offertory: "Theme to Grace" (Guaraldi)
  + "Lift Up Your Hearts"
  + "Holy, Holy, Holy"
Prayer of Consecration
The Lord's Prayer
  + "O Lamb of God" (sung by the choir)
  + Communion (accompanied by Guaraldi's "Holy Communion Blues")
     Hymnal #314: "Humbly I Adore Thee" (arrangement by Guaraldi)
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Recessional Hymn: "Christ for the World We Sing!"

The Eric Gunnison Trio
"The prelude and postlude may include other melodies by the trio," Bruce adds. "I'm not exactly sure what they're planning. After all, they're jazz musicians!"

I remember hoping that last summer's 50th anniversary events might generate additional interest in Guaraldi's Grace Cathedral Jazz Mass, along with more church and/or concert presentations of that music. Dare I hope further than this Colorado service will be the first of many more such tributes?

It's a nice thought.