Praise the music

By Judith van Berkom –

All Saint’s Anglican Church, at 347 Richmond Road near Churchill Avenue, hosts Jazz Vespers – or evening song – every first Sunday of the month at 4:30 p.m. in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, an intimate setting with excellent acoustics.

Jazz Vespers with Wesley Warren conductor, choir of St.Barnaba, and Billy Boulet on sax. Photo by Al Goyette.
Jazz Vespers with Wesley Warren conductor, choir of St.Barnaba, and Billy Boulet on sax. Photo by Al Goyette.

The Chapel, designed by Thomas Fuller, who also designed the Parliament Buildings and other churches in the region, was built in 1895 in the Gothic Revival style and serviced a community of people who operated saw mills on the Ottawa River. The larger church and parish hall were added in the 1950s as the congregation grew. In 1998, the parish of All Saints spent a significant amount to restore the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and make the space available to the community at large as a place of renewal and spiritual nurture. Jazz Vespers grew out of this and has been in existence for about 15 years.

“What I love about Jazz Vespers the most is that it’s accessible to the average person coming in off the street – there is no communion, and Anglicans always have communion, no statement of faith, you can just come in,” says Barbara Robertson, member of All Saints who has been involved with Jazz Vespers from the beginning.

Concerts normally take place in the Chapel, however, on November 3, the concert was held in the newly renovated larger church, mainly to accommodate a bigger audience.

Billy Boulet, just recently relocated from Ottawa to Toronto, improvised on saxophone with the choir of St. Barnabas from Ottawa centre. Music included pieces by Palestrina, Tallis, William Byrd as well as more contemporary music by Healey Willan, Billy Boulet (solo) and Stephanie Martin.

Boulet has been involved with Jazz Vespers for quite a number of years. His repertoire includes sacred and jazz, classical and Celtic music.

St. Barnabas Choir, a group of 22 singers directed by Wesley Warren, organist and choirmaster, won first prize in the National Competition for Amateur Choirs in 2010, selections of which were broadcast on the CBC Radio programs Choral Concert and Espace Musique.

The audience varies but there are definitely regulars, both attendees and performers at Jazz Vespers. A theme is chosen for the month and the music, readings, personal reflection, closing prayer and communal hymns reflect the theme. November’s theme was All Saints Day, November 1.

Westboro’s Jennifer Skuce is a regular and comes often with her aunt and godmother. Skuce’s mother attended All Saints and she has good memories of the place.

“It’s a nice place to see each other and spend time together,” says Skuce.

“It has a community feel.”

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