Monday, June 16, 2008

Road Test

We had a blast yesterday! Al Hamme brought the founding members of the Quartet together for a Father's Day concert in nearby Johnson City, NY. As part of our set, Tony, Tom, Al, and I played four of the new tunes to a very appreciative audience. Thanks, Al, for the gig, and for insisting that we play this music.

A few of the random comments:
  • "Iona Morning is a wonderful piece . . . so full of joy! I will be humming the melody all day."
  • "This or That out-Monks Thelonious!"
  • "Everybody Dance took me back to the thrill of Mardi Gras in the French Quarter. My feet were tapping. Thanks for that great tune."
It's gratifying to know the tunes can stand on their own musical terms. The players really enjoy them, and the audience responds.

The trick will be to offer them as spiritual prayers, without becoming preachy. It does affect the room when somebody introduces me as a minister, or if I talk too much about Jesus in a secular concert setting. Hmm...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Big News - we have received a grant!

We have received word that the Louisville Institute is supporting our "Psalms Without Words" project with a generous grant. The Institute is a grant-making organization of the Lilly Endowment, based on the campus of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.

Here's the summary of the grant, as summarized on the Institute's website:
  • My proposal is to explore how instrumental music may be an emerging resource for Biblically-based prayer. It is my intent to draw upon the fruits of my 2006 Sabbatical Grant for Pastoral Leaders, to develop my work from that sabbatical in a form that is useful for church and synagogue, and to reflect theologically on what we might discover about the potential and power of instrumental music for renewing the people of faith. Specifically this project will convene four collaborative gatherings of musicians who regularly play liturgical jazz. We will interpret and record a large selection of the psalms without words that I composed during my sabbatical. Throughout this process, we will reflect together theologically on instrumental music as a form of prayer. I will conclude the project with a writing retreat, when I plan to compose a series of essays that discuss the discoveries and insights that have continued to emerge through this process.
This is wonderful news, so stay tuned. This will push the project fast-forward, and we'll have much to share in the near future.