Additional Reasons for Loving Dave Brubeck’s Music  

After publishing the post about Dave Brubeck and other jazz musicians, I remembered that my church, Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian, has used Brubeck music in at least two of our worship services. These are additional reasons for my love of his music.

On September 2, 2012, our church organist, Melanie Ohnstad, played an organ prelude “Swing Five,” which uses the rhythms of Brubeck’s “Take Five” and which was composed by a contemporary German composer, Johannes Matthias Michel.[1]

On December 6, 2015, Westminster’s church choir sang “God’s Love Made Visible,” a sacred jazz piece in 5/4 time by Brubeck. The words by his late wife, Iola Brubeck, started with the religious meaning of Christmas:

  • “God’s love made visible! Incomprehensible! He is invincible! His love shall reign! From love so bountiful, blessings uncountable made death surmountable! His love shall reign! Joyfully pray for peace and good will! All of man’s yearning He will fulfill. Praise him for ev’ry day! Open your hearts and pray. His love shall reign!”

After an interlude of words about the secular activities of the season, the music returned to the religious theme:

  • “ God gave His Son to us to dwell as one of us. His blessing unto us! His love shall reign! To Him all honor bring, heaven and earth will sing, praising our Lord and King!
  • His love shall reign! Open all doors this day of His birth, men of good will inherit the earth.
  • His star will always be guiding humanity through eternity!
  • His love shall reign!”

This choral piece is from a longer sacred work by Brubeck: “Fiesta de la Posada” (Festival of the Inn), which Brubeck said was an outgrowth of his absorbing and observing “Mexican folk music all my life.” That “ethnic music reflects those qualities I most admire in people… dignity in moments of tragedy, infectious high spirits in moments of joy, and an unshakeable religious faith made evident in a strong sense of one’s own worth and a deep respect for the shared values of one’s own group — family, church, village. These qualities, I think, are universal to people with a strong communal sense” that he “tried to capture in the simple retelling of the Christmas story” in “fiesta de la Posada.”

I also discovered that Brubeck had some Presbyterian connections and had played this piece and others at the national meeting (General Assembly of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ) in 1997.[2]

Thank you, Dave Brubeck, for these contributions to works for religious communities.

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[1] Jazzy Music at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, dwkcommentaries.com (Sept. 5, 2012).)

[2] Brubeck, A Note from the Composer, davebrubeck.com; Buchanan, A tribute to Presbyterian-friendly Dave Brubeck, PCUSA News (Dec. 14, 2012.