Set Your Spirit Free With Jazz at EMS

August 2, 2022 / Andrea Wenger
Jazz worship at Allen Chapel AME Church in Staunton, Virginia featured Rev. Dr. Edward Scott's sermon inspired by John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" given on Sunday, 9/19/21. The band featured Lew Taylor on piano, Kris Monson on bass, Marlon Foster on drums, Marcus Tenney on trumpet, Greg Moody on reeds and Robert Mott on trombone. 
Photo by Pat Jarrett
Jazz worship at Allen Chapel AME Church in Staunton, Virginia featured Rev. Dr. Edward Scott's sermon inspired by John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" given on Sunday, 9/19/21. The band featured Lew Taylor on piano, Kris Monson on bass, Marlon Foster on drums, Marcus Tenney on trumpet, Greg Moody on reeds and Robert Mott on trombone. Photo by Pat Jarrett

Set My Spirit Free: Jazz Music’s Soul Connection is the title of a combination concert, worship service, story telling and poetry event at Eastern Mennonite School, Sunday, Sept. 25 at 4:30 p.m. The 90-minute program will contextualize the uniquely American art form of jazz music and celebrate its place in the worship traditions of the Black church.

This “musical treat will lift your spirits and put a song in your heart!” says Robert Mott, who spurred the vision for EMS to host the program after he played trombone in a chapel service last school year. That chapel came on the heels of a moving Martin Luther King Jr., Day chapel by his pastor, the Rev. Edward Scott of Allen Chapel AME Church in Staunton., the oldest church established by people of color west of the Blue Ridge in 1865.

Mott and Scott first collaborated on a Jazz Worship service at Allen Chapel in May 2019 to an overwhelmingly positive response. The second Jazz Worship service was held in September 2021 and that service — with a sermon entitled “A Love Supreme” — was featured on a recent episode of WMRA’s Folklife Fieldnotes, available here. Rev. Scott has been thrilled that Jazz Worship has been one of those events that has successfully crossed the racial barriers often seen on Sunday mornings, attracting a diversity of people into the church.

Dr. Joanne Gabbin, a member of Allen Chapel, will share poetry written about jazz for the event. The poet, author and educator recently retired from James Madison University, where she founded the Furious Flower Poetry Center, America’s first academic center dedicated to Black poetry. EMU’s Dr. David Berry will provide improvisational piano backing Dr. Gabbin’s reading.

Musicians featured in the professional jazz sextet include:

  • Lew Taylor, piano
  • Neil Perrine, bass
  • Marlon Foster, drums
  • Marcus Tenney, trumpet
  • Greg Moody, reeds
  • Robert Mott, trombone

Musical numbers will include compositions by Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner and Lee Morgan, among others.

EMS students will participate in the event through an opening choral piece, instrumental accompaniment on at least one song, and sharing of poetry and art in a foyer display.

“We anticipate a cross-section of community members — people of all ages, from varied denominations, schools and colleges — to come together in our building on a Sunday afternoon to be uplifted, encouraged, challenged and amazed by what God can do through music,” says Paul Leaman, head of school.

The program is free and open to the public in the school’s auditorium at 801 Parkwood Drive, Harrisonburg. A freewill offering will be raised to support Eastern Mennonite School’s need-based financial aid fund.

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