Jazz goes to church

Heather Bambrick celebrates Love Jazz vespers at East York's Northlea United Church

Filling the long corridors and high, stained-glass ceilings, the voices rang as  sweet as a bell. It was a celebration of creation, connection, community and children.

The main voice belonged to Juno-nominated singer, voice actor, and broadcaster Heather Bambrick. She and her band created an evening of mellow jazz at Northlea United Church on Nov. 18 that connected churchgoers to the spirit and the world.

Bambrick has performed with some of world’s finest musicians, including Fred Hirsch, Guido Basso, Gene DiNovi, Lea DeLaria, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and many others.

The jazz service consisted of several East York church representatives and many friendly faces from the local community.

“Love Jazz vesper services at Northlea United encourage connection, community, and sharing,” said Northlea event host Lucy Platt.

Worship leader Rev. Dr. Ellen Redcliffe sang along to Bambrick’s vocals from afar, admiring the ambiance.

“We gather to reflect creativity and to celebrate our shared appreciation for the heartfelt connection between spirituality and jazz,” Platt said. Healing hearts and soothing spirits. Life is complicated. Spirituality shouldn’t be.”

“My story is simple,” Platt said. Several years ago, she attended her first Jazz vespers at Northlea United simply as a jazz fan after seeing a small ad in the local Leaside Life publication.

“Enjoying jazz and readings that afternoon in the context of the beauty and peace of the sanctuary was memorable. I still recollect savouring that first winding walk up to the main doors through Northlea’s grounds that are enhanced with majestic pine trees. It felt like a retreat to me… a getaway right in my neighbourhood,” said Platt.

That experience influenced her to attend a Sunday service. “Very quickly, as I gradually met members of the congregation, attending Sunday morning services at Northlea became routine.

“I am now a member of the Lay Worship team at Northlea United,” she added. “Since I am a jazz fan, I contribute to organizing and hosting Love Jazz vespers. We offer different service options at Northlea. At Love Jazz vespers, we share our love of jazz in the community — for the community.”
This particular Sunday’s theme was celebrating children and the gift of play as part of our innate spirituality.

Six-month-old Sebastian was unexpectedly a part of the vocals, and everyone was as happy as could be.

Laura Coombs attended the event with her son, Sebastian, unaware of the evening’s special theme.

“I was happy to hear that the event was child-themed,” Coombs said. “So a little baby noise would be tolerated and even appreciated.”

A quote by American actor Nat Wolff was honoured and embraced at the service: “Jazz is smooth and cool. Jazz is rage. Jazz flows like water. Jazz never seems to begin or end. Jazz isn’t methodical, but jazz isn’t messy either. Jazz is a conversation, a give and take. Jazz is the connection and communication between musicians. Jazz is abandon.”

The intangible aspect of music came alive as Bambrick and her band crafted an evening of mellow jazz that connected the audience to the spirit and the world.

Pianist David Restivo and bassist Pat Collins were perfectly in tune with one another, while saxophone player Colleen Allen had the crowd mesmerized.

Singing songs about real true love and living a life without regrets, Bambrick said, “Expect the unexpected, be in the moment, and just be.”

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Posted: Dec 5 2018 3:10 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Features News Profiles