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ISing brings 'Divine Jazz' to Beaverton, Portland

Concerts feature guest jazz trumpeter Thomas Barber

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Trumpet player Thomas Barber works through a Tuesday rehearsal - led by ISing Choir Conductor and Artistic Director Stephen Galván - for Divine Jazz, which opens Friday at Bethel United Church of Christ in Beaverton.Jazz is characterized by improvisation, syncopation and regular or forceful rhythms.

The ISing Choir expands on that formula this week, adding cooperation, collaboration and giving hearts.

The ISing Choir, based in Beaverton and led by Conductor and Artistic Director Stephen Galván, will put all that on display with the performance of “Divine Jazz,” a series of four concerts that begin this week. The first three of those — at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday — will be held at Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ, 5150 S.W. Watson Ave. in Beaverton; the fourth concert in the series will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 14 at St. Peter Catholic Church, 5905 S.E. 87th Ave. in Southeast Portland.

While the performances themselves are free, reservations are recommended (go to isingchoir.org to reserve seats) and donations will be accepted, with proceeds from the first three performances going to the Beaverton Intercultural Council, and proceeds from the fourth to the Providence St. Vincent Medical Foundation (see sidebar).

In “Divine Jazz,” the ISing Choir teams up with jazz trumpeter Thomas Barber to take concertgoers on a musical journey exploring the fusion of sacred music and modern jazz.

Barber has written scores for over 20 independent films and TV shows, and has performed with Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis, Louie Bellson, Pete Fountain, Darrell Grant and many others.

A native of Moscow, Idaho, Thomas won both the Lionel Hampton High School Trumpet Competition and the International Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition in Gothenborg, Sweden, in 1997, then earned a degree in classical trumpet performance from the University of Northern Colorado. Thomas currently lives in Portland.

Galván explained that the roots of “Divine Jazz” came from a 2015 trip to Cluny Abbey in France.

“Besides the marvel of Cluny’s architecture was the beauty of its music that could be heard from the choirs 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “The roots of Western music can be found at the Abbey of Cluny and ‘Divine Jazz’ includes music that has a direct correlation with the abbey.”

In addition, “Divine Jazz” will also feature the return of ISing baritone Kirk Hansen (he was featured in the April 28 edition of the Valley Times: “Beaverton's Kirk Hansen ready to sing again”) following the removal of a lemon-sized brain tumor in September.

“I’m a third-generation baritone. Singing comes easy to me,” Hansen said. I’m “fortunate to get to sing a couple of solos (in ‘Divine Jazz’). We’re doing a couple pieces where I sing ... a piece before the rest of the choir comes in.”

The program features the hauntingly beautiful “Pange Lingua Variations” by jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck. Brubeck’s interpretation of this ancient hymn, originally composed by Thomas Aquinas, is a kaleidoscope of moods, at times exhilarating and jubilant, and at times meditative and reflective. TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - ISing Choir Conductor and Artistic Director Stephen Galván leads his group through a Tuesday rehearsal for Divine Jazz, which opens Friday at Bethel United Church of Christ in Beaverton.

The concert will begin with one of the most famous sacred choral pieces ever written — Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere mei, Deus” — and Barber’s jazz improvisation will transform this traditional chant into a rich and multi-layered piece of modern music. Barber will be part of a jazz quartet engaging in a playful yet reverent dialogue with the choir.

And the piece that Galván is most looking forward to is titled “O Hostia Salutaris.”

“Without a doubt, the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful piece on the program is ‘O Hostia Salutaris,’ Galván said. “I find it difficult to keep back the tears.”

In addition, ISing will premiere “Amor Dei” by composer and United States music ambassador to China Nathan Felix. In this emotionally powerful concert, ISing explores the spiritual dimensions of jazz, stretching and even crossing the boundaries of sacred music.