The Light is meant to serve as a symbol of truth, love … and hope. Hope that even
in a dark season we may begin to see the world “Bending Towards the Light”
First, a little history:
New York City, 1985 I, Anne Phillips, got a surprise call from John Garcia Gensel ,
the “Jazz Priest” at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. He had suggested me as the
writer of “The Jazz Nativity” to be used as a benefit at the church. “Why me???”
I thought! Then I began to picture the lights going out and the sound of a solo
tenor saxophone gently playing Silent Night in the darkness and I was off and
BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT … A JAZZ NATIVITY was born.
As Howard Reich wrote in the Chicago Tribune:
“The Christmas story told in thoroughly American terms”
“A new New York tradition," New York Magazine
“As always, The Jazz Nativity is a major event” Wall Street Journal
“a spiritual classic”
“None of the classics is half so giddy, nor so utterly entertaining as The Jazz Nativity
that burst onto the stage of Orchestra Hall…”
A light, that symbol of hope in so many religions and philosophies, would represent
the Christ. The Kings, dressed in glorious costumes, would come from the rear of
the hall and present their gifts … not gold and frankincense and myrrh, but the gift
of their talent!
Year after year, the greats of the world of jazz …
Dave Brubeck, Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Al Grey, Jon
Faddis, Phil Woods, Jon Hendrix, Paquito D'Rivera, Candido, Maurice
Chestnut, Wycliffe Gordon, Houston Person, the tap-dancing Kings, Honey
Coles, Harold Nicholas, Jimmy Slyde, have performed at Avery Fisher Hall,
The Lambs Theater, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Birdland, BBKing’s and
even The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue!
Directors Beth and Tad Jones have staged Bending Towards the Light like an
opera, a jazz opera, that everybody loves.
Photo: Judy Kirtley
Jazz aficionados, children, people who think they don’t like jazz come back
year after year. Its been called the “Peter and The Wolf” of jazz!.
Charles Kuralt, our host for many years, wrote “This is a very spiritual story and
jazz is a very spiritual music. What you will hear tonight comes straight from the
heart.” Starting with that haunting "Silent Night" played by my husband and co-
producer, tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred, the joy and love on the stage spills off the
stage building an excited and often new jazz audience! The CD of the show with all
these great stars is available to hear and buy on CDBaby
In 2012 we took a big step. We translated the show into Spanish!
The Jazz Nativity 2012 welcomes:
trombonist Steve Turre
dancer Max “Rumba tap” Pollak
trumpeter Ray Vega
New York’s “singing policeman” Daniel Rodriguez
jazz singer Claudia Acuña
soprano Brenda Feliciano
singer Mauricio Trejo
singer Jorge Ocasio
saxophonist David deJesus
singer Franshees Ricardo
percussionist Chembo Corniel
percussionist Bobby Sanabria
trumpeter Enrique Sanchez
pianist Alex Brown
The vocal group:
Shadia Almasri, Elise Hernandez, Bert Dovo and
Edwin David Vargas
Michael Mossman, Jon Gordon,
Bob Kindred, Art Baron, Adam Asarnow, Dean
Johnson, and Tim Horner
Written by Anne Phillips
Directed by Beth and Tad Jones
Musical Director Bob Kindred
Kings photo: Barbara Galati
Video cover Photo: Dave Rubin
Other photos: Judy Kirtley, Peter Serling
Promo video & web: Susanne Joshua
Performance materials, including solo and choral
170 West End Avenue
NY, NY 10023
The audience was captivated from the first note as Daniel Rodriguez,
New York's "Singing Policeman" who became so well known after
performing at the 9/11 memorials, sang the title song.
Latin Jazz greats, Bobby Sanabria, Ray Vega, Chembo Carniel, Arturo O'Farrill,
Steve Turre, Max "Rumba Tap" Pollak and of course two regulars, Paquito
D'Rivera and Candido played as the all Latino cast sang it in Spanish. Each
person on stage brought such beautiful passion and rhythm to this new born
Tony Bennett greets Candido and cast backstage 2012
So now we have “Bending Towards the Light … A Jazz Nativity” and
“Inclinando Hacia la Luz … La Natividad en Jazz.”
It is hard to explain the power of the show. Unless you have seen it, felt the
joy, admiration and love for each other and for the music that pours out from
the musicians and singers on the stage into the hearts of the people there,
you can’t know what it is. It is a continuing surprise to me.
Dr. Billy Taylor on CBS Sunday Morning said, “By the end of 'The Jazz
Nativity' you know you’ve been through something wonderful!” In
recent years I have often served as host. Every year as I repeat those beautiful
words Charles Kuralt wrote, “hope … that even in a dark season, we may
begin to see the world "Bending Towards the Light” I have to fight back
the tears because every year the world seems darker.
We are an extremely small non-profit with extremely big goals!!!
We have kept the show alive on a shoestring. All the star performers have worked for
scale because they love it. We have never been able to get major corporate
sponsorship (what are your demographics? … jazz is a niche market … uh-uh, not
like this!) There is never enough money for advertising. We’ve taken some financial
hits… a couple of blizzards, the NYC transportation strike … ouch! But we haven’t
let it die. Some Jazz Nativity fans have helped with support each year so we have
been able to keep ticket prices in a reasonable range. It is such a wonderful family
event and a great jazz audience builder!
Our Jazz Nativity Children’s Project even led us to starting Children’s Jazz Choirs, giving
inner city children the opportunity to experience the show and then to learn and
perform the songs of our Great American Songbook and jazz heritage. Unexpectedly,
it has turned out to be a great asset in developing their reading skills!
And we've got a lot to look forward to! Two great Spanish filmmakers,
Fernando Trueba (Calle 54, Chico and Rita, The Artist and the Model) and
Carlos Carcas, (Old Man Bebo) love it and want to see both shows filmed for
international television distribution.
The show is performed every year in other cities. We hope to bring it to the world.
"And so we celebrate the victory of light over darkness,
we who are bound together by the spirit of Love. And
when we go out into the world we become the doors and
windows through which the presence of that Love is
revealed. Like a radiant light it shines from our eyes, our
works, our acts.”
Jazz Nativity Epilogue, Vicki Verploegen Vandergrift
LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!
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