Music brings us all back together

Published 7:22 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Sunday, I returned from visiting family in a neighboring state early to attend a concert in Selma at the First Presbyterian Church. My friend Nancy Ziccardi, a wonderful musician in her own right, promised me this would be a concert well worth attending.

She understated.

The featured artist for the day was Quentin Lane, a Selma native, who received his bachelors in music from the University of Alabama, then studied at The Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. He received his master’s at Eastman.

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If you’re old enough to have followed the bouncing ball with Mitch Miller, then you know of one of Eastman’s most famous alumni. If that’s too old for you, then try Chuck Mangione, the world-famous jazz composer and performer.

Lane is well known around these parts. He has served as organist and director of music at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham. He is organist and choir director of the senior choir and male chorus at Brown Chapel African American Episcopal Church and at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

Lane sat down at the organ at First Presbyterian Church and God sang. Whether it was classical church music composed by Felix Mendelssohn or Johann Sebastian Bach or the 20th century arrangements of more popular pieces, such as “Swing Low” or “Slane,” no one could have doubted the presence of some higher spirit, no matter the name given it.

The “Swing Low” piece was particularly appealing. Lane had arranged it, calling it “An Improvised Meditation on ‘Swing Low.’” Actually, it was some of the best-arranged jazz I have heard performed live in the last five years. He worked his instrument and his timing was impeccable on that piece.

Tips of the hat are also deserved to cantors on those two modern pieces. Joe Bumbrey performed the “Swing Low” piece and Vaughan Russell performed “Slane.” A couple of hours well spent in the sanctuary there at First Presbyterian.

And, afterward I thought just how fortunate in Selma we are to live in a seeming magnet for artists. If you enjoy good music, as I do, you’ll see folks gathered together with instruments or some folks just using the instrument of the voice, making joyful noises for the most part. We need more performances like Sunday.

They bring us together.