'Where jazz meets the spirit': B.C.'s oldest jazz vespers celebrate 25 years in Vancouver

Jazz Vespers at St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church marks 25th anniversary with concert spectacular on Sept. 30.

Jazz Vespers at St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church marks 25th anniversary with concert spectacular on Sept. 30

Jazz Vespers at St. Andrew's Church combines jazz songs with reflections from church ministers. (Jazz Vespers/Facebook)

For trumpet player Jamie Croil, venturing into the unknown in front of a live audience can feel like a divine experience.

"The process in the mind of an improvisor is to actually let go of most thought — and let the spirit move them," he told host Margaret Gallagher on CBC's Hot Air.

Croil is a bandleader of Jazz Vespers — a weekly merging of music and spirit at St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church.

Each Sunday, jazz bands and musicians partner with reverends who encourage churchgoers to reflect — and sing along to some live music.

Now, Croil is leading B.C.'s oldest jazz vesper service to its biggest show yet — a 25th anniversary special that promises to bring some of the province's most talented musicians together for an evening of live music and spiritual exploration.

The weekly event holds its 25th anniversary on Oct. 1, 2017. (Jazz Vespers/Facebook)

Jazz Vespers

St. Andrew's Wesley Church is one of just a few churches in North America that offers a weekly jazz vesper service.

Having started in the early '90s, Croil says it has given many musicians the opportunity to explore their music in a setting and style outside the standard jazz club.

He says musicians are encouraged to perform songs that aren't necessarily spiritual in nature, but rather gritty or "from the street."

After each performance, a reverend conducts a reflection that puts a spiritual lens over the musician's performance.

"It's an opportunity for someone to put into words the sort of deep, emotional aspect, spiritual aspect of jazz. There's a type of disconnect that happens when a person is improvising," Croil said.

"So to hear a really, really educated person who is knowledgeable about the world of spirituality put that into some context is really cool."

Jazz Vespers runs a 'Raising the Roof' benefit to repair the roof of St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church 54:00

A benefit

The anniversary event will feature a progressive showcase, opening with solo pianist Ron Johnston and building up to a grand finale.

"We will add a vocalist, a bass, and a drum, and we'll gradually build this band until we're going to end with The Marcus Mosely Chorale and the Dal Richards Orchestra all at once — something like 50 people," said Croil.

Croil says proceeds from the event will go towards much-needed repairs for the church's roof.

The event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Band leaders and musicians sometimes coordinate weeks in advance with ministers before the official song and reflection take place. (Jazz Vespers/Facebook)

With files from CBC's Hot Air