SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- "Swing to the Lord a New Song" is the theme for the 10 am worship service at Willow Grove Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Feb. 22, with music by the Florian Schantz Jazz Combo. Songs and hymns will be woven throughout the worship service, reflecting a variety of jazz styles from spirituals to Latin style to swing.
The Combo will play some of their favorite instrumental pieces at the beginning and end of the service, including "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," "Tiger Rag," and "St. Louis Blues." During the service, they will play during hymns, as arranged by jazz pianist and Presbyterian pastor Rev. Bill Carter, such as "Amazing Grace," "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," "There is a Balm in Gilead," and "What A Friend We Have in Jesus." At the end of the service all are invited to join in singing "When the Saints Go Marching In."
A resident of Westfield, Florian Schantz started playing trumpet at age 6, started his own Jazz band with adult professional musicians at 9, and received the Louis Armstrong Award for trumpet at 11. Now 12 years old, he and his combo have played professionally in Europe and the US. His sister, Margaret who is 15 years old and has been playing in the combo since 2013, will be playing flugelhorn. The jazz combo also features Rup Chattopadhyay on trombone, Lowell Schantz on guitar, and Cory Ackerman on drums.
Willow Grove Church's Pastor, The Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, sees this service as part of congregation's commitment to high quality and creative ministry of music and the arts.
"This exciting service will reflect how jazz, Christian faith and worship intersect. In many ways jazz reflects aspects of our faith as Christians. There is melody and improvisation," Rev. Cochran-Carney said. "The best jazz songs are grounded in a clear melody that can open musicians to great exploration of new possibilities. God gives us a melody in the person of Jesus. We have a purpose and direction. This gives us our basic melody."
According to Rev. Cochran-Carney, "Improvisation is an apt description of our Christian practice, and church is our rehearsal studio. It is about playfulness and curiosity, call and response. Jazz is also the blues; its roots are in suffering and longing. Faith knows blues. Finally, you can't play jazz alone. You can't be a Christian alone. Both require practicing and playing in an ensemble, which means listening to and working with other people. We are looking forward to this service of celebrating the musical gifts of young people and enjoying joyful music that moves the soul."
Following the worship service, the Jazz Combo will lead a "Show and Tell" time for children and adults of all ages. The musicians will display and talk about an assortment of brass and percussion instruments and more, some dating to the 1800’s.
Refreshments will be served in Alexander Hall following the worship service and presentation. Funding for this musical performance is provided by a grant from the Presbytery of Elizabeth. Willow Grove Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) is located in Scotch Plains at 1961 Raritan Road, across the street from the Scotch Plains Southside Firehouse =, near the corner of South Martine Ave. The facilities are handicap-accessible. Call (908) 232-5678 or visit www.willowgrovechurch.org for more information. This concert is part of the 2014-15 "Music for the Soul" series which has featured a wide variety of musical styles and performers.