Transfiguration Vespers

August 6, 2016

A participatory jazz vespers service and film, composed by J.J. Wright.



The Film

Filmed live in February 2015 at Saint Peter’s Church in NYC as part of their celebrated “Jazz Vespers” series, Vespers for the Feast of the Transfiguration is a documentary style film that presents a reimagined Vespers service incorporating elements of jazz and popular music to encourage congregational participation and ecumenical worship. 

The film presents a guided viewing experience of the service, featuring the J.J. Wright Trio with bassist Ike Sturm and drummer Nate Wood, interviews from Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM, President of DePaul University and J.J. Wright, and footage from the visually stunning St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Chicago, IL. The interviews serve to illuminate the rich tradition of Christian Prayer and show how the incorporation of musical forms such as jazz can enliven and encourage a holistic worship experience. 

Vespers for the Feast of the Transfiguration is directed by Tom Sandak, and produced by J.J. Wright, Ted Reilly, and Tom Sandak. 

The Service

Vespers for the Feast of the Transfiguration is a liturgical service composed by J.J. Wright for jazz piano trio (piano, bass, drums), cantor, and congregation. The service follows the format of Vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours. It includes simplified settings of traditional Gregorian Chant psalm tones and antiphons adapted from popular music including Sufjan Stevens’ The Transfiguration. This ecumenical service incorporates elements of jazz and popular music, interweaving chant melodies and improvisational meditations. The formal structure and musical/textual elements illuminate the thematic content of the feast while welcoming participants into the traditional narrative, which concludes by fostering personal encounter with the mystery. Using the documents of Vatican II as its foundation, most especially Sacrosanctum Concilium, the service is designed to encourage the congregation towards “full, conscious, and active participation”; it creates an inclusive environment where all can participate equally, regardless of musical ability.