Each Sunday at 5:00 P.M. an open community gathers for prayer and reflection on the lines of sacred scripture and jazz.

One of the highlights of jazz vespers is the singing of a psalm. Our musical leaders lead us in a variety of ways: sometimes joining in singing, other times taking in the music. Sometimes they sing with music, other times the psalm is entirely improvised. Ike Sturm, director of music for jazz, shares some reflections on this psalm, below.

Chanda Rule & Melissa Stylianou, vocals
Andrew Hartman, guitar
Ike Sturm, bass
Jamie Reynolds, piano

About Psalm 19 + a blizzard

From the snowy depths our band gathered on a quiet night for jazz vespers. Emergencies and wind blown powder birthed an impromptu quintet from Kensington to the Hudson Valley. There was a risk and a spark as we assembled for the first time, trusting the music would coalesce in a way that we couldn't plan or design.
Fear momentarily gripped each of us as we readied ourselves to leap into the cold, uncertain waters of a completely improvised psalm: no music, no melody, no refrain, no rehearsal, no key, no meter, no chord symbols, no discussion of any kind -- only Psalm 19 and the Spirit to guide our hands and voices.

From the moment the first vocal refrain emerged, a sense of thawing and letting go allowed us to listen more deeply to God's voice and the echoes all around us. At many points we were unsure of what to play next, waiting for a cue or sound from another. Ultimately, the increasingly familiar refrain returned, reconciling our fears and drawing everyone's voices together.

That evening, my daughter prayed this beautiful prayer:

"Thank you, God, for giving us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it."