Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gospel Concert

ValLimar & Tom perform ‘In the Power of theSpirit’
by Eleisa L. Maynard

To all in need of Good News, Greetings! To all who miss the spiritual aspect of the annual Music Festival, a word. Allow me a small amount of your time in which to introduce two premier performers of Gospel music who will be bringing their considerable talent to our shores for ONE NIGHT ONLY, this June. In the official Artist’s Biography presented by her promoters, ValLimar Jansen is referred to as a “highly regarded singer, cantor and recording artist. She is also a college professor, a leader of worship and prayer and a workshop presenter at conferences across the United States.” But that is
only a fraction of the story of the woman who has graced the world with her amazing voice.

Born in Killeen, Texas and raised for the most part in Alexandria, Louisiana by her mother and step-father, ValLimar has been singing sacred music since she was five years of age. She “received most of her training in music and performance at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and she holds professional degrees in the Arts from California State University and the University of California”. To date, she has “sung and toured professionally” as a recording artist, throughout the
United States, Europe and in Japan. Additionally, she was cast as Beneatha in the European premier of the Broadway production, Raisin and has co-authored “a onewoman musical about the life of Ethel Waters” - which “received special commendation from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.” This is what is known about the public life of Mrs.
Jansen. However, in interviewing her for this article, I was pleased to discover that success notwithstanding, ValLimar remains a woman of simple yet powerful faith who considers herself blessed to be able to share her gift of music with others. Married since 1994 with three children, her family is based in California and is comprised entirely of artists.
Her husband Frank - himself a pianist and musician - travels and performs with her when he can. For their part,
the children lovingly support her work as a musician - even though it means that they are often deprived of their
mother’s presence. This is not to say that she is neglectful of the duties she performs as a mother, but it is to say that she has mastered the fine art of balancing a rich and rewarding professional life with that of a stable and happy home.
Perhaps her early experiences of traveling around the United States (because of her step-father’s work in Affirmative Action on behalf of the U. S. Airforce), and resultant exposure to a range of diverse cultural identities and modes of expression lay the groundwork for her unique ability to blend seemingly disparate and often contradictory elements with unusual success. It certainly seems to have informed her musicality. Her unique intermingling of jazz & gospel with contemporary and traditional sounds makes for a glorious musical mélange. As an example, consider her album You Gotta
Move in which she juxtaposes the high octane, heart thumping, powerhouse performances of well known numbers like ‘The Cry of the Poor’ against the mellow, soothing notes of her version of ‘[I] Surrender All’ which is rendered with such exquisite tenderness as to melt the most hardened of hearts. The other songs on this CD and Anointing (her most recent release), feature fresh takes on modern music, the melodic re-interpretation of Negro Spirituals and an innovative approach to presenting her own distinctive work. ValLimar remains firmly aware however, of what or rather, Who it is that provides the glue which keeps it all together. Bearing in mind that “gospel is the Good News set to music” and that Gospel music well done “leads the listener to Jesus”, she says earnestly that each performance “is about wanting desperately to disappear” so that God can “let [her] be a good vessel to channel the gift that [He] will give” to all who come within the reach of her
voice. She likes to begin each performance with a prayer and allows the Word of God (in the music) to speak for Itself even as she offers her work as prayer in praise of the Divine Majesty. This humility is born of a life rooted in the Word. Raised a Baptist, ValLimar says that she knew from her experience of the Roman Catholic Liturgy (the rites, ceremonies, prayers and sacraments of the Church), that spiritually she was home. She officially converted in 1991 and delights especially in the fact that having multiple avenues through which to explore and express one’s spirituality, demonstrates just how well the Church embraces everyone.
It is this attitude of loving embrace that led her to accept the invitation to come to St. Kitts and to perform for us as
part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations of Immaculate Conception Parish. She believes strongly in the ‘Great Commission’ given by Christ - to bring the Good News to everyone - and that conviction is what inspired the setting
of this concert.

Joining her here will be her friend and colleague Thomas Kendzia. Married with two children of his own, Tom as he prefers to be called, is himself an accomplished musician of many years’ standing. With over 100 pieces of lyrical & instrumental music published, and with numerous awards to his name, he brings a wealth of experience and a high
degree of professionalism to bear on his work. His career in religious music happened not so much as an accident, but rather as a natural unfolding over the course of a lifetime - he has always loved all kinds of music (including the Motown Sound, that of the Beatles as well as the work of Classical composers - Bach most notably among them), but in particular, he embraces the Irish music of his childhood home (his father is half Irish). Additionally, Tom has devoted his energies to the exploration and celebration of the varied sounds of the world’s many cultures. He indicated to me that he is particularly keen to hear some of the traditional music of St. Kitts so as to expand his considerable repertoire. When asked what he found most rewarding about his career as it is to date, he said that it is most gratifying “to hear people sing [his] music.” He referenced Fr. Liam Laughton, a priest in Ireland who utilizes the music from one of his productions in the Liturgy there. He goes on to state (without a trace of conceit) that it is now not at all uncommon to hear gospel & other types of contemporary music in Irish Catholic churches-due in part to his efforts. He also spoke of his joy in finding on a recent trip to Ireland, that in a culture not known for musical participation during the Mass, “the whole Church sang along” as a young vocalist rendered one of his songs. But, the deservéd adulation does not stop there. He also counts the director of music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Dr.Jennifer Pascual) as one of his fans and says simply that he is as happy to have his music utilized, as it most certainly is in that renowned house of worship, as he is to have it heard anywhere. However, like ValLimar, he is discomfited by the tendency of some modern religious artists to place the focus of their work on themselves. “I do my best to keep me out of the music I write” he says and goes on to add that he “become[s] uncomfortable when it starts to be about one person.” This is part of the reason why he does so much collaborative work, drawing on the substantial skill sets of a wide selection of multi-talented individuals. Their simple goal is to have the listener “experience the Spirit of God move.”
It is with this in mind, that under the Distinguished Patronage of His Excellency, Sir Cuthbert Sebastian Governor General of St. Kitts-Nevis, the Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception invites the general public to an evening of soul-stirring and inspirational Gospel music at the Sir Cecil Jacobs (Eastern Caribbean Central Bank) Auditorium on Thursday, 12th June, 2008. From 7:00-9:00 pm you will be able to hear the LIVE performances of these two exemplary artistes who will share their magnificent music and sublime vocal abilities with us.

Tickets are only $50 for adults/$25 for children under 12 and are available through the Catholic Parish Office on East Independence Square Street. Call 465-2541 or 465- 2464 for more information.

In light of the world’s current unfortunate state - natural disasters that kill thousands in an instant and the ever increasing cost of oil and other necessities (caused in part by the machinations of the wealthiest and most powerful nations) - you are encouraged to bring your cares and concerns to this concert and allow them all to be swept up ‘In the Power of the Spirit.’
As ValLimar states so eloquently, “Jesus [will be there] and is ready to heal whatever is broken”.

You can find information about these artistes and hear samples of their music online at: Tom Kendzia ValLimar Jansen

PLEASE NOTE: Seating is restricted by the size of the auditorium and is therefore, in limited supply - to secure your place, purchase your tickets TODAY. Proceeds in aid of the Church Renovation Fund

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