On the Lutheran calendar of saints, Johann Sebastian Bach’s feast day is July 28.
In downtown San Francisco, there’s the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church.
Bach and Coltrane, separated by time, race and culture, share one thing: a profound spirituality in which all that divides is dissolved. It is this that inspires some devotees to revere them as saints.
The Imani Winds and the Harlem Quartet will explore this spiritual dimension with “Passion for Bach and Coltrane” on Saturday at Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College. It will be the Kansas City premiere.
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When Emily Behrmann, the general manager of the Performing Arts Series at the college, first heard about “Passion for Bach and Coltrane,” she knew she wanted to bring it to Yardley Hall.
“I was told ‘Passion’ would be written as if J.S. Bach and John Coltrane meet and create a work together, and that intrigued me,” she said. “What would that be like? Having trained as a classical vocalist, I’ve listened to a lot of Bach. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say it’s some of the most spiritual music ever written.
“I hadn’t listened to as much John Coltrane until later, but it occurred to me the same themes are there, expressions of spirituality, connections to the human beings around us, and an inspiring virtuosity. It all made sense.”
Jeffrey Scott, the French horn player with the Imani Winds, wrote the work, which he said was inspired by the poetry of A.B. Spellman.
“A.B. Spellman was a major executive in the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) for many, many years, but also was very well known for being a poet and a jazz critic throughout his career,” Scott said.
“He wrote these poems proposing the idea that the two real giants of classical music and jazz were Bach and Coltrane. He wrote about the idea of faith and what role faith played with both of them in the writing of their music.
“The irony of it all is that Mr. Spellman is an atheist, but he writes so profoundly about the effect of religion on him through music. He wonders what would it be like if Bach and Coltrane had met if there were a heaven.”
The 79-year-old Spellman will be on hand at the performance to read his own poetry, including “Out of Nazareth,” his version of the passion of Christ.
“He gives a very modern take on the actual passion itself,” Scott said. “From the whole idea of him being found guilty of sedition, paraded through the town, the nailing to the cross, the resurrection.
“He goes through that, but in a very musical, modern, almost jazz-tinged poetry. Although he’s telling the story, and very profoundly, you actually hear the music in the flow of the poetry. You can’t deny the influence of music in his writing.”
Scott’s music for “Passion” quotes from Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Coltrane’s 1964 mystical masterpiece “A Love Supreme.” Widely considered to be one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, “A Love Supreme” is Coltrane’s ecstatic hymn of praise and gratitude to God.
“He respected all religions, and toward the end of his life he was Eastern-influenced,” Scott said. “But when you talk about ‘Love Supreme,’ we’re really talking about a Christian influence. This was his upbringing, and it was a real coming-to-Jesus moment for him.
“One of the pieces in ‘Love Supreme’ is entitled ‘Psalm’ and has words that are nothing but praise of God.”
It is interesting to imagine what Bach, who signed every composition ADMG (Ad majorem Dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God), would have thought of Coltrane.
“I would say this, I think they would both be in absolute awe of one another,” Scott said. “I think Coltrane would have been drawn into Bach’s world spiritually. They would have influenced each other, but Coltrane would have written a passion himself.
“I’d probably be stealing from his passion right now. I don’t know, man, I can’t even imagine the music the two of them would have made together. Oh, my goodness gracious.”
A pre-show talk at 7 p.m. will feature Paul Laird of the University of Kansas, as well as Jeff Scott and A.B. Spellman.
It’s the first and, to many aficionados, the best Dracula movie.
F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu,” based on the Bram Stoker classic, is not only one of the greatest horror films ever made but one of the supreme masterpieces of the German expressionist movement.
Organist Dorothy Papadakos will provide live accompaniment to the 1922 silent film Wednesday at Helzberg Hall.
It’s astounding how well Murnau’s pioneering vampire movie holds up almost 100 years after it was made. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film review aggregator website, it’s the best-reviewed horror film of all time. To watch “Nosferatu” on the big screen while Papadakos plays the dramatic Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ should be a thrilling experience and a great way to get in the Halloween mood.
How about a blast of brass for $5?
Thursday night the Folly Theater will resound with sound when Volker Brass performs. The University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance Graduate Fellowship Brass Quintet will perform little-known gems by Victor Ewald, Anthony Plog, Jan Koetsier and Wilke Renwick. It can’t be emphasized enough that if you want to hear the best music at bargain basement prices, you can’t do better than concerts presented by the conservatory.
Kansas City Chamber Orchestra
Fall is at its peak right now, but Thursday night, Old Mission United Methodist Church will sound more like spring.
The Kansas City Chamber Orchestra conducted by Bruce Sorrell will perform Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” as well as the pastoral “A Severn Rhapsody” by English composer Gerald Finzi.
Also on the program is “The Twelve Kisses” by Forrest Pierce, a setting of selections from the Book of Solomon’s “Song of Songs,” which will be sung by soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson. Rounding out the program is a concerto for oboe d’amore by Johann Sebastian Bach.