Ike Sturm and his ensemble will set hymns to new music.
Ike Sturm and his ensemble will set hymns to new music. (Courtesy of Ike Sturm)
Thursday May 17, 2012

LENOX -- The 23rd Psalm sung to a jazz beat will fill the 144-year-old Roman esque sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church in an in novative vesper service at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

What is believed to be the first vesper in the church's history is an extension of the parish's outreach ministry, welcoming new worshippers. Admission will be free, thanks to an anonymous gift from a parishioner.

For at least an hour, Ike Sturm and a jazz ensemble dedicated to spreading the gospel will play music set to biblical texts and lead the congregation in song and prayer.

Sturm, music director for the Jazz Ministry at Saint Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City, promised to play well-known melodies with creative harmony, swinging rhythms and improvisations.

"We will also ask folks to join in on refrains for the Magnificat and new Psalm settings. Granting creative liberty to the musicians allows a response to God's Spirit and the environment surrounding us," he said.

The program also calls for playing "Shine," "The King of Love My Shepherd Is," "Love Has Come," "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Sturm, a bassist, composer and bandleader, will lead musicians playing guitar, vib raphone, and drums, and two vocalists, Chanda Rule and Sturm's wife, Misty Ann Sturm. A native of Ap pleton, Wis., Ike Sturm went to New York after graduating from the Eastman School of Music in Roch esster, N.Y. At St. Peter's his ensemble performs a monthly Jazz Mass and Vespers. The group has been developing music with sacred texts for nearly a decade.

The combo will come to Lenox at the invitation of The Rev. Dr. Randy Wil burn, Trinity's interim rector, who introduced Sunday jazz vespers when he was rector of a church in San Jose, Calif.

This program is not out of the prayer book or tradition, Willurn explained.

"The songs are prayers for community and peace and healing in the world. Some of the program will be rather rousing and moving, and other parts will be very lyric and beautiful. Music can speak to all of us, each in our own dialect," he said.

Reggie Cooper, Trinity's senior warden, said the jazz vesper marks an expansion of Trinity's musical footprint in the Berkshires.

"We hope to attract people to jazz vespers who have never been here for a classical concert or more traditional service," Cooper said. "We hope they will come from all segments of the community, regardless of their beliefs or affiliation."

Gail Street, longtime chair of Trinity's outreach committee, said the vespers service is part of Trinity's community programming, which allows musicians and singers to perform in the sanctuary.

These programs include the Can tilena Choir, Boston Uni ver sity Tan glewood Ins titute students, a Boston Symphony Orchestra chamber music en semble, and the BSO Curtis ville Con sor tium. The parish also offers annual Advent services of blessings and carols.

"The Jazz Vespers will let us share another spiritual gift," Street said.



What: Jazz Vespers

Ike Sturm, bass, and his jazz ensemble --

Chanda Rule, voice

Misty Ann Sturm, voice

Jesse Lewis, guitar

Chris Dingman, vibraphone

Jared Schonig, drums

Where: Trinity Church,
88 Walker St., Lenox

When: Sunday at 5 p.m.

Admission: Free

Information: www.trinitylenox.org