“To Hope! A Celebration”: Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Liturgy UPDATED

UPDATE:  Tom Loewe, co-host of the wonderful “Notes From Above” show on Ave Maria Radio, offered some great insights into the life of Dave Brubeck.  If you’re a jazz fan, you won’t want to miss Tom’s tribute show this week!  Details below about Brubeck’s life and music from Tom himself.

Brubeck was, and will always be, one of the great icons of Jazz. He was the first Jazz artist to sell a million records with “Take Five” back in 1959 and his opus of recordings since that time is truly massive. He’s recorded several Masses and musical settings for sacred music over the course of 60 year career. He converted to Catholicism during WWII while serving with George Patton’s Third Army. What he saw on the battlefield moved him to seek the Lord. He was a committed husband and father (unlike so many of his contemporaries in the Jazz world) and stayed away from the enticements of drugs and alcohol. And, he was a fabulous musician and leader, intelligent, passionate and generous. Most musicians considered it an honor to “sit in” with Dave — and they became better players for doing so.

This week, Ave Maria Radio is playing a tribute to Dave Brubeck on “Notes From Above” of which I am a co-host along with the fabulous Sister Sarah Burdick. We will be featuring Brubeck’s “Pange Lingua Variations” from his 2003 release, “Classical Brubeck” on the Telarc label. The music is sublime! You can hear the show by going online at http://www.avemariaradio.net and clicking the “listen live” button. The Brubeck tribute on “Notes From Above” will air on Sunday, December 9 at 4:30 pm Eastern Time, and again at 9:00 pm Eastern on Wednesday, December 12 and Saturday, December 15. Please give it a listen — you’ll be glad you did.

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The world has lost a great man of jazz this week.  Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck died on December 5, 2012, in Norwalk, Connecticut.  I offer my own recollections, and introduce you to one of his lesser-known compositions, a Catholic Mass.

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It was circa 2002 and I was conference director for Legatus.   That organization’s International Summit was being held in Naples, Florida, and I was planning the great concelebrated liturgies.

At the time, Dave Brubeck and his wife Iola wintered and maintained his studio and educational programs on Sanibel Island, off the southwest coast of Florida.  I had heard that Brubeck, a Catholic, had composed a Mass; and I tried—how I tried!—to arrange for him to play that Mass during our conference.   Despite a flurry of faxes back and forth with Brubeck’s agent, there were too many scheduling problems (he needed to bring with him the entire orchestra); and it never happened.

Most of the news reports I’ve seen of Brubeck’s passing this week have mentioned his famous single, “Take Five.”   But yes, he was Catholic—and yes, he composed a most unique jazz liturgy titled “To Hope! A Celebration.”  As the world remembers this great man and great musician, take a few minutes to listen to Brubeck’s 1997 performance of “To Hope! A Celebration” with the Russian National Orchestra.

Star jazz musicians who performed with Brubeck in Moscow included Bobby Militello on sax, Jack Six on bass, and drummer Randy Jones.  The conductor was Russell Gloyd. Soloists on this video are soprano Maria Maskhulia, tenor Mark Bleeke and bass-baritone Kevin Deas. Choral selections were provided by the Yurlov Russian State Academic Choir.

  • http://www.avemariaradio.net Tom Loewe

    Thanks for posting. Brubeck was, and will always be, one of the great icons of Jazz. He was the first Jazz artist to sell a million records with “Take Five” back in 1959 and his opus of recordings since that time is truly massive. He’s recorded several Masses and musical settings for sacred music over the course of 60 year career. He converted to Catholicism during WWII while serving with George Patton’s Third Army. What he saw on the battlefield moved him to seek the Lord. He was a committed husband and father (unlike so many of his contemporaries in the Jazz world) and stayed away from the enticements of drugs and alcohol. And, he was a fabulous musician and leader, intelligent, passionate and generous. Most musicians considered it an honor to “sit in” with Dave — and they became better players for doing so.

    This week, Ave Maria Radio is playing a tribute to Dave Brubeck on “Notes From Above” of which I am a co-host along with the fabulous Sister Sarah Burdick. We will be featuring Brubeck’s “Pange Lingua Variations” from his 2003 release, “Classical Brubeck” on the Telarc label. The music is sublime! You can hear the show by going online at http://www.avemariaradio.net and clicking the “listen live” button. The Brubeck tribute on “Notes From Above” will air on Sunday, December 9 at 4:30 pm Eastern Time, and again at 9:00 pm Eastern on Wednesday, December 12 and Saturday, December 15. Please give it a listen — you’ll be glad you did.


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