The Trinity Jazz Festival began in 2002. The festival’s founder, Father William B. Miller saw jazz — city music par excellence — as a vehicle for emphasizing both the Midtown church’s urban setting and its commitment to artistic expression.
The first festival featured Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of the famed New Orleans jazz family, and Ed Calle, the popular Miami saxophonist. The headliners were accompanied by Houston area jazz musicians, including pianist Paul English. Subsequent festivals have featured such notable talents as the legendary sax player David Fathead Newman, Marvin Stamm, Bud Shank, Andre Hayward, Jason Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Suzi Stern, David Liebman, Roseanna Vitro, Jason Moran, Diane Schuur and Billy Harper.
The Jazz Festival weekend culminates in a Sunday Jazz Mass, which has been celebrated since 2008 by Trinity’s Rector, Rev. Hannah E. Atkins. Rev. Atkins calls artistic creation “a reflection of the divine image and work of God the Creator in each of us.”
“Music is an expression of the most primal and profound essence of the human spirit and is an echo of God’s Holy Spirit at work within and around us. The nature of jazz ignites a spark, a chispa, a flame of the soul’s longing for freedom, for truth, for connection.”
She noted that Trinity celebrates and honors the intermingling of the sacred and the mundane in the music.
“By embracing the talent of musicians, both saints and sinners, courageous enough to take risks, to improvise, to use the gifts God gave them freely, we hope to encourage artists, young and old alike, to make the world a better place with their music. The Trinity Jazz Festival is an offering of Spirit, of faith, hope and love to our diverse and creative city,” said Atkins.
The very popular Mass has garnered a reputation as one of the most exceptional and inspiring events of its kind and has featured such unique works as the seldom-heard sacred music of Duke Ellington, as well as spirituals from Lift Every Voice and Sing, the official African-American hymnal of the Episcopal Church.
The Trinity Jazz Festival has become one of Trinity Episcopal Church’s most significant community outreach programs, and the Jazz Mass provides a fitting finale to this wonderful celebration of Jazz.