New Orleans, the home of soul
Last night we played New Orleans, the home of soul. We were the last performance of a two and a half week opening of the refurbished Saenger Theatre that featured 8 different shows – a lot of work! The attendance was underwhelming, but the reception was enthusiastic. Poppy Tooker brought the trumpet section some of her world famous gumbo and we quietly devoured it. I can’t name all of the great musicians and artists that came last night, and the choir sang their hearts out. I was very proud to be up there with them. They showed a lot of integrity and resilience. As always, the orchestra, with many members having been raised by parents who played real jazz, played the music with deep dedication. Our trombone section played as if they had something to prove last night. Whatever it was, they proved it.
Today, we’re going to hear from a man that grew up in the Big Easy. A master teacher of music and math, Saint Augustine High School alumnus, past member of the Jesuit Elementary School Honor Band, master tactician in pick-up games, possessor of a boudoir tenor sound and a clear ringing Crescent City Creole clarinet style that reaches back to Alphonse Picou, Mr. Victor Goines:
Celebration, Music and Food!!!
These three words are often associated with New Orleans. Our stop here on Saturday and the performance last night provided an opportunity for everyone associated with this Mass – Chorale Le Chateau, Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra and the audience – to be fed and nourished in the communal celebration of something historic.
Gumbo is better on the second day, and so is the Abyssinian Mass. The seasonings and ingredients of the music have had an opportunity to settle through repeated performances, and the ensembles are becoming indivisible as we become more familiar with the work and each other. Everyone has become more interactive, adventurous and committed to this piece, just as Wynton was in its creation. By the end of this tour, I think this could be JALC’s most successful and fulfilling artistic collaboration.
The audience at the Saenger was not as plentiful as we would have hoped, but it was as powerful and appreciative as everyone would have expected. As I was leaving the theatre, I ran into a long-time educator from New Orleans and a person deeply committed to American culture, Ms. Lorraine Wilson. What she said touched me deeply and stays with me. She said, “This work is fantastic and you all performed it wonderfully. It moved me in such an emotional way that it brought tears to my eyes. When I die, I want you to tell them they don’t have to have a ceremony or anything like that for me – just play the music of the Abyssinian Mass to send me home!!!”
We are heading to Houston for a performance this evening at The Fountain of Praise. Tonight will be the last of three church performances on this tour and we want to express our deep appreciation to Pastor Remus E. Wright and Co-Pastor Mia K. Wright for welcoming us into their home.