Jazz Vespers

Join Christ Church on selected Sundays between September and May for this musical celebration of Evening Prayer.  Fr. John McDuffie on tenor saxophone leads a quartet of great Washington musicians on keyboard, bass and drums, playing modern jazz standards selected to reflect the liturgical season.

Jazz Vespers to Benefit National Children's Center

Sunday, December 11 at 5pm

Have a holly, jolly December with another edition of Jazz Vespers at Christ Church. The Rev. John McDuffie on tenor saxophone will lead a quartet of great Washington musicians in playing jazz standards to accompany the liturgy of Evening Prayer in a special Advent/Christmas/Epiphany mode. A free-will offering that day will be received to benefit the National Children's Center. Make December 11th your "dancing day"!

Admission is free, but a suggested donation of $20 is welcomed.

National Children’s Center, Inc. (NCC) is a non-profit organization that is one of the region’s largest non-governmental providers of services for the developmentally disabled, offering an array of services to infants, children and adults in the Washington metropolitan area. NCC’s community-based services include Early Learning Centers, Schools, Transition Services, Adult Vocation Services and Residential programs. These personalized services have benefited thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing educational development and life skills that have lead to empowerment, employment and independent living.


Christ Church Rockville
109 S. Washington St.
Rockville, MD 20850
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Free (donation suggested)

The Rev. John McDuffie, Tenor Saxophone; Jim Levy, Piano; Dave Marsh, Bass; Coleman O'Donoghue, Drums.

About Jazz Vespers

Since 2008, Christ Church Rockville has been offering Sunday Jazz Vespers services. Typically there are six services in a calendar year—three in the winter and spring, and three in the fall. Inspired by the regular Sunday jazz vespers at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York City, the Christ Church jazz vespers is the Episcopal Church liturgy of evening prayer, with well-known standards from the jazz repertoire taking the place of traditional service music and canticles. Two hymns are also a part of each service.

The Rev. John McDuffie, Rector of Christ Church, started jazz vespers after a sabbatical he took in 2007, underwritten by the Lily Foundation. Fr. McDuffie is a tenor saxophonist who was once active on the jazz scene in the Norfolk, Virginia area, and who has sat in at local jam sessions in the Washington, D.C. area for many years. Playing with Fr. McDuffie is a trio of well-known local jazz musicians. Pianist Jim Levy has been involved in many musical projects in Washington, and has been a member of the music faculty at George Washington University since 1984, where he started the University’s jazz studies program. Jim is also the organist and choir director at Rockville United Church. Bassist David Marsh is a member of the music faculty of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, Maryland, and has been active in playing, recording, and touring with local and nationally known artists of varied musical genres. Drummer Coleman O’Donoghue is the manager of the percussion department at Washington Music Center in Wheaton, and has also played and recorded with top local musicians.

How does jazz work as a medium for worship and spirituality? Once derided as “the devil’s music”, jazz has its roots in the spirituals and work songs of the African-American community. In formal harmonic structures, transcendent creativity realized through instrumental solos that are improvised. There is an orderly plan, but room for the life of the spirit to erupt in surprising ways. Theologian Elizabeth Johnston once said that God may be like a great jazz musician, in that God has an overarching compositional plan for the life of the world, but allows us, who are the members of God’s “band”, to freely improvise toward the realization of that plan. This is the dynamic essence of jazz, and when it becomes a part of worship, the creative and surprising power of the spirit of God is realized.

There are always surprises at Jazz Vespers—and there is always joy and delight. The energy of the congregation plays a vital role in each prayer, each reading of scripture, each hymn, and each tune that is played.

Jazz Vespers was originally supported by funds from Fr. McDuffie’s sabbatical grant from the Lilly Foundation. It is now largely supported by the generous gift of a parishioner and his wife. The service is free to attend!—but a free-will offering is always gratefully accepted to benefit ministries that are changing the lives of others in the world. Community Ministries of Rockville, Episcopal Relief and Development, Stop Hunger Now, and the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys are among the beneficiaries.

Jazz Vespers this Sunday at 5 pm

Have a holly, jolly December with another edition of Jazz Vespers in a special Advent/​Christmas/​Epiphany mode. A free-will offering will benefit the National Children's Center.

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