The D.C. Jazz Festival concluded on an inspirational note Sunday as the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Men and Women of the GospelChoir gave a jazzy upgrade to several church standards before hundreds of diners The Hamilton, one of the city’s newest dining and concert venues.
During the 10 a.m. performance, the WPAS ensemble sang their upbeat version to “Oh When the Saints Go March In,” and other songs under the direction of jazz pianist Anthony Walker.
“The elements of gospel and jazz are very close,” said Stanley Thurston, artistic director for the Washington Performing Arts Society, who filled the stage with choir members for the noon program. “Jazz and gospel styles interchange and we love combining the two so this was a great opportunity to do that.”
From a jazzy arrangement of Edwin Hawkins “Oh Happy Day,” to “Enlarge My Territory,” a song taken from the Prayer of Jabaz in the Old Testament, the full WPAS Choir performed an hour long set as people dined on grits served with shrimp sauce, fried chicken, collard greens and ham and a variety of baked goods.
From the Hamilton to the Howard Theatre, a growing number of District entertainment venues are tapping into the Sunday morning market and hosting gospel and jazz brunches. But this is nothing new said Debbie DuCre, a Hollywood communications veteran who was at the brunch.
DuCre, who worked as the director of communications for Motown and Playboy International in the 1970’s, said brunches have always been popular in big cities and they appear to be growing. “In these times people need something to lift their spirits. People find happiness in eating and they are spiritual uplifted with gospel as well as jazz.”
The Jazz Festival, co-sponsored by the Washington Post, FedEx, ABC7 and other organizations, kicked of on June 1st and ended Sunday. The John Scofield Trio also perform at the Hamilton Sunday.
“We wanted to make sure that the WPAS was part of the jazz celebration in the nations capital and to do it right here at the Hamilton lifted everyones spirits,” said Sunny Sumter, Executive Director of the DC Jazz Festival, “It was just phenomenal.”
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