June 16 – 22: Bobby McFerrin, The Fray, King’s Kaleidoscope, Lily & Madeleine…

Bobby McFerrin will be drawing on a rich spiritual heritage when he sings at the Orpheum this weekend.

Bobby McFerrin will be drawing on a rich spiritual heritage when he sings at the Orpheum this weekend.

This is shaping up to be a rich week for music in Vancouver. The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is bringing in some great artists from June 20 until the end of the month, and there are several other bright lights as well.

Possibly the biggest name in the Jazz Festival line-up is  Bobby McFerrin, who will be playing the Orpheum on Sunday (June 22).

Organizers stress the range of his artistry: “His latest album, spirityouall, is a bluesy, feel-good recording, and an unexpected move from the music-industry rebel who singlehandedly redefined the role of the human voice with his a cappella hit ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ his collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea and the Vienna Philharmonic, his improvising choir Voicestra and his legendary solo vocal performances.”

The name Spirityouall suggests a side of McFerrin’s life and career that is not widely known. An enlightening 2013 Christianity Today interview revealed his family’s strong Christian roots.

By way of introduction, interviewer Mark Moring pointed out that “Bobby McFerrin grew up hearing the great Negro spirituals from one of history’s finest interpreters of the genre – his own father. Robert McFerrin, Sr., the first African-American man to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, brought a polished beauty to those old songs with his rich, booming baritone.

“Young Bobby fell in love with the songs. But while he became an acclaimed vocalist himself, winning 10 Grammy awards, and has embraced those spirituals his entire life, he never got around to making a gospel album.

“Almost seven years after his father’s death, McFerrin, 63, finally decided to record his favorite spirituals – plus a few extras – for the recently released spirityouall . . . It’s a jazzy, improvisational album, with hints of pop, blues, country and more – typical McFerrin, meaning there’s little that’s typical about it.”

Asked what he thinks of the label ‘Christian musician,’ McFerrin responded:

“There are some amazing musicians who devote their lives to making music for worship. I admire them, and we have some things in common. My music comes from a place of prayer too. But I make music that lives in the everyday world. . . .

“So I don’t think of myself as a jazz musician or a black musician or a Christian musician or an American musician or a serious musician or a silly musician. I’m just one person up there, singing to a bunch of other people. Whoever they are, whatever language they speak, whatever their beliefs or concerns, we are in the moment together. I try to bring audiences into the feeling of joy and freedom I have when I sing. A feeling that our existence here on earth is pretty miraculous.”

Some other artists to look out for during the Jazz Festival:

kellyjoephelps1* Kelly Joe Phelps will be at Presentation House in North Vancouver Friday night (June 20). Known for his virtuosity with the slide guitar as well as his finger picking style – I’ve seen him a couple of times at the Folk Festival and can vouch for his talent – Phelps is also a Christian.
 
A Georgia Straight article by Alexander Varty from a couple of years ago pointed out that a Spiritual crisis lies behind Kelly Joe Phelps’s songs.
 
“With Brother Sinner & the Whale Phelps has made a deeply religious record, and the simple question ‘Why?’ sparks a half-hour-long discussion of faith and art that’s difficult to condense into capsule form . . .

“[He] does allow, however, that a spiritual crisis lies behind songs such as ‘Talkin’ to Jehova,’ ‘The Holy Spirit Flood’ and ‘Down to the Praying Ground.’ ‘Through a series of choices –  life choices and lifestyle choices and outlook choices – I ended up at a point where it seemed I had boxed myself in,’ he explains. ‘Whether I fell from grace, I don’t know, but I certainly found myself looking upward from a very dark spot.’

“Given two possible escape routes – the ‘completely and totally existential’ option of suicide, versus a return to his Christian faith – Phelps decided to live, and Brother Sinner & the Whale is, in part, a record of his struggle to regain the light.

“From this godless heathen’s perspective, some of its language is mystifying, but the story it tells is as powerful as the great gospel songs of Blind Willie Johnson or the Staple Singers – songs that transcend their religious content to speak directly to the human soul.”

LailaBiali1* Laila Biali’s show would be perfect for parishioners from First Baptist, Christ Church, Coastal or any of the other downtown churches, because she’ll be performing – for free – at Robson Stage, starting at 1:30 pm on Sunday (June 22).
 
For some background, read  Ken Eisner’s Laila Biali is living the jazz dream, from the Georgia Straight last fall. The Vancouver native is now living in New York.
 
Among her fans is Sting, who said, “It is the ultimate task given to the musician, whether as singer or instrumentalist, to create a unique signature or fingerprint that is instantly recognizable as their own. What is surprising and delightful in Laila Biali is that both as vocalist and pianist she accomplishes this with equal aplomb. She is an exciting and unique talent, and I admire her greatly.”
 
For years Biali was a featured artist with Imago Arts, a Christian movement which “since its beginning in 1972 . . . has engaged in advocacy for the arts, addressed social issues and promoted science/religion dialogue.” Based in Toronto, it supports projects from various disciplines of the arts, including Biali’s Radiance Project.

* Marcus Mosely Chorale, based right here in Vancouver, will appear with Bobby McFerrin at the Orpheum and the next night at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church.

thefray1The Fray

Members of The Fray were leading worship in their local Denver churches when their first album – How to Save a Life – exploded onto the scene in 2005, eventually going double platinum.
 
In a Christianity Today feature from 2006, leader singer Isaac Slade said “he used to ‘write all Christian lyrics’ until he had an epiphany while working a shift at Starbucks: ‘None of my friends outside the church understood any of my songs; we had a different set of vocabulary. . . . So I went home and threw away all those songs. . . .

“‘If we grow up in the church, it’s easy to think it’s our Christian duty to preach to every single person because God is the most important thing. And he is, but I’m a musician first. This is my job. We’re not pastors. We’re not preachers. We’re not even missionaries.”

Relevant Magazine interviewed Slade a couple of years ago:
 
“I have more questions than I did before. I think I’m beginning to accept that faith starts with mystery, child-like wonder at what the world is. Then it goes into all the different paths of life. I’m not sure what they are, but probably something like discipline, prayer, knowledge. And then at the end of life, as you come to a close, I think it probably goes back around to mystery again.
 
“Scott Peck wrote that book, The Road Less Traveled, and he talks about how everyone wants their faith to be increasingly rigid, increasingly understood, and it just isn’t. You can try, but you kind of find yourself at the end of the ball-game knowing less than you did in the first inning. And I’m okay with that.”
 
In a Huffington Post video interview earlier this year, host Ricky Camilleri asked Slade about the transition from being a Christian to mainstream band. (Ironic considering they’ve been in the mainstream for almost 10 years; such questions must get tiresome!)

Slade said, “We’ve had some really good examples. I’m thinking about The Killers. Brandon is Mormon and you don’t hear him singing Mormon lyrics. He just sings lyrics about life, love, loss longing . . . So whatever faith he holds, it’s embodied in his songs.”

The Fray will be at Malkin Bowl Wednesday night (June 18).

kingsk1King’s Kaleidoscope

King’s Kaleidoscope (or KingsK) will be at Westside Church (The Centre) on Saturday (June 21). This “10 musician collective from Seattle, whose music is self-described as ‘designed chaos'” has decided to keep their message much more focused than The Fray’s.

KingsK frontman Chad Gardner says, “We want to create the best Gospel-centered, Jesus-focused music on the planet” and notes that “everyone in the band is still individually serving at their local churches.”

The band was born at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, where they led worship for four years, “but now aims to craft music that is not limited to a Sunday morning congregation. The band is best known for their ability to creatively rearrange classic hymns, pushing the boundaries of modern worship music. [They] feature sections of strings, horns and two drum sets, with [an] inventive setup, strong hip hop influences and Mars Volta-esque feel.”

KingsK will be joined by The Wind & the Waves from Village Church in Surrey.

lilymadeleine1Lily & Madeleine

“If you want chills, listen to these two girls sing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ – WOW.” That’s the title for a YouTube video which more than 35,000 people have watched, and loved. Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are sisters, still both in their teens, from Indianapolis, where they grew up in the Catholic Church.

I don’t know what they’ll play in Vancouver, but you’ll have a chance to see for yourself at The Media Club this Saturday (June 21).

The Guardian featured the sisters in its New Band of the Week column last summer, saying: “There is nothing shocking about Lily & Madeleine apart from their precocious abilities. They only released their debut EP, the Weight of the Globe [on Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty label], in January this year but already it has worked its magic: one of the tracks, ‘In the Middle,’ has had over 300,000 YouTube views, which you should check out because it shows the spell that can be cast by two frankly miserable-looking teenagers with mountain air-pure voices and a guitar.”

June 16, 2014

Kairos Course – June 16, 2014 - June 22, 2014 at All Day

June 17, 2014

Bring Back Our Girls – June 17, 2014 at 7:00 am - 9:00 am
C2C Spring Cadre: Larry Osborne - Sticky Church: Creating a Culture of Hospitality and Assimilation – June 17, 2014 at 9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Caring for Creation: A Pastors' Retreat – June 17, 2014 at 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

June 18, 2014

Union Gospel Mission Summer Connect – June 18, 2014 at 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Voices Together: Pastors and Ministry Leaders Luncheon – June 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
The Fray – June 18, 2014 at 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm

June 19, 2014

Voices Together: Pastors and Ministry Leaders Luncheon – June 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

June 20, 2014

Swapping Roles: A 'Position Exchange' Dialogue – June 20, 2014 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Poverty Revolution Boot Camp – June 20, 2014 - June 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Music Night at St. John's – June 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Kelly Joe Phelps (Vancouver International Jazz Festival) – June 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm

June 21, 2014

Free at Last: Psalms Worship Symposium – June 21, 2014 - June 22, 2014 at All Day
Springboard: Vocational Discernment – June 21, 2014 at All Day
Run For H2O – June 21, 2014 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Worship Central Hub – June 21, 2014 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Worship Central Hub – June 21, 2014 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Worship Central Hub – June 21, 2014 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Charles Ringma: Almost a Monk - What the New Monasticism Can Learn from the Old Monasticism – June 21, 2014 at 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Teddy Bear Picnic 2014 – June 21, 2014 at 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Remembering the Children – June 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
The Marcus Moseley Chorale: Shout – June 21, 2014 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
King's Kaleidoscope – June 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Lily & Madeleine with special guest Shannon Hayden – June 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm

June 22, 2014

Greek Day AKA Church on the Street – June 22, 2014 at All Day
Laila Biali (Vancouver International Jazz Festival) – June 22, 2014 at 1:30 am - 3:30 am
Ecumenical Church Service for Point Grey Fiesta – June 22, 2014 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Ecumenical Church Service for Point Grey Fiesta – June 22, 2014 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Bobby McFerrin with The Sojourners (Vancouver International Jazz Festival) – June 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm

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