The image on the “masthead” of this blog is a photo I took of the sax player who played with the Paul Kirby Trio at Jazz Vespers, St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland.

As I started to write about that first Jazz Vespers at the venerable St. Giles, I discovered that I was wrong about two things I had assumed. One was that I had saved the “bulletin” from that service. If I did, I have misplaced it. The second mis-umption (nice word, huh?) was that one can find anything on line these days. Google it, and there it is: the name of the sax player and the name of the young African-American Assistant Pastor of St. Giles at the time. (The Assistant Pastor was an American serving that Scottish home of Presbyterianism in the summer of 2007.) Well, after two diligent (for me) searches, I couldn’t find much more than the name of the jazz pianist who led the trio that evening. I located that much from the worship notes from the 5 August 2007 morning service, which also included the name of the vocalist, Christel Meijer.

On line, I could only find the following announcement in a jazz calendar of sorts:

“A CELEBRATION of jazz, blues, gospel and rock music is to take place next month in St Giles Cathedral. The free event, on August 5 at 8pm, will feature The Paul Kirby Trio and Peter Backhouse.  Organisers have also promised ‘some surprises’ for audiences.”
Maybe the term “some surprises” meant that even the organizers weren’t quite sure what was going to happen that night. It’s always a good idea to leave room for the Spirit to blow where it wills, even in cathedrals that go back to the 14th century. And especially if the musical genre is jazz. What the blurb didn’t mention was that the performance was not meant primarily for an audience of jazz aficionados, but for God. The venue was not merely a concert hall, but a church. Those who gathered to listen to the Paul Kirby Trio were to be a congregation, people of all walks of life who happened to like jazz, and, one would hope, love God. If the secular notice I quoted above referred to a “celebration” and an “event,” the St. Giles schedule that morning listed the event as “Jazz Vespers.” Vespers is a service of worship held in late afternoon or evening, and St. Giles offered theirs at 8 p.m. that August night.
The city of Edinburgh was teeming, yea verily, swarming with “Fringe-goers,” tourists and visitors joining with local citizenry to crowd the streets and countless performance venues for what is billed as the “largest arts festival in the world.” My wife and son and I just happened to be there for the “Fringe Festival,”  renting a flat across High Street from the so-called John Knox House. What a thrilling hassle it was to negotiate our way through thousands of people who were either trying to entice audiences to their performances (from juggling to jazz, from Bach to bop to bagpipes, to dance, comedy, drama, poetry, folk music, and mime — or — who were trying to decide among the choices.
I had chosen the BBC Big Band playing the music of Count Basie at Queens Hall. Among other things. But at Sunday morning worship at St. Giles, we read of the Jazz Vespers service to be held that night. We were at the Cathedral door at 7:45 or so, and we were met at the door by a rather serious looking older man in a dark suit who was less the welcoming church usher, and more the model of an ecclesiastical bouncer. He made it clear that the Cathedral was closed to tourists and fringers, because of an evening service. “Well, that’s why we’ve come, ” I assured him. “Oh.” Almost reluctantly, he admitted us. We followed another gentleman to a comparatively small section of seats that had been set aside in the massive nave for this particular service. We were served with what we American church-goers call “bulletins,” printed orders of worship.
I was justifiably excited about the service I saw outlined there. And I kept my video camera within reach. Yes, I was a worshipper ready to bootleg. In my next entry, I’ll tell you what happened. And how Christel Meijer, the jazz vocalist from the Netherlands who helped lead the service that night, just emailed me the name of the sax player pictured above!
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