Sarah Pillow Brings The Stars To NYC!

by John A. Wilcox

Medieval Radiance & Incarnate Jazz / Moon And Stars is quite a mouthful! I asked the ever wonderful Sarah Pillow to enlighten me as to the concept :We wanted to create a timeless experience for the audience, and show the timelessness of music. Moon and Stars is the theme as most of the songs will be on the theme of celestial bodies, which relates to how small one feels when wandering about in a huge church, and is akin to looking up at the night sky and feeling very small. It will be an entertaining experience that also helps to shift perspective.

Quite a concept to be sure! Who came up with this concept? Pillow again : My singing career has been in both Early Music and Jazz, and I�ve made two albums (Nuove Musiche and Remixes) that fuse the two genres; so when I was approached by Church of the Incarnation to create a jazz concert that was unique, I proposed that the concert begin with songs from the medieval period and then segue into jazz. Music written before 1800 has a lot of similarities to contemporary music (use of modes and how the beat is felt, for example) - much more than music composed during the classical and romantic periods.

With such a unique and demanding concept, the music surely call for top-flight players. Who is playing with Sarah Pillow at the gig? Arun Luthra is from India, and besides being a great sax player, has an intuitive familiarity with modes, so was a natural choice. Marc (Wagnon) recorded an album with drummer Mike Clark, coincidentally (another celestial connection) titled Conjunction. He is one of the greatest drummers around so we were thrilled that he was available and curious about the project. Joe Martin has a warm acoustic sound on the double bass that we felt would be a great addition to the ensemble. Marc Wagnon will be bringing out his acoustic vibes for this concert, which is a rare treat. He is also a Solar System Ambassador for NASA and JPL and amateur astronomer, so he�ll be available to answer any questions about the night sky! Christopher Preston Thompson is an excellent singer and medieval harpist. The sound of the harp evokes mysticism and other-worldliness.

As with most Pillow events, Marc Wagnon will be adding his distinctive vibe playing to the show. I asked Pillow how they met : We met through a mutual musician friend who I had worked with in California. When I graduated from college and came to New York City, we were introduced, and we started working together� And I guess I have to say the rest is history! But seriously - we both have the desire to take musical experiences to another level, or you could even say - go boldly where No One has gone before!

I was very curious as to what actual songs are being performed at this event. Sarah Pillow happily enlightened me : The first priority was to find texts that fit the theme for the evening. Stella By Starlight and Mingus� Eclipse were already in our jazz repertoire. Marc has written several songs on astronomical themes, so we will be performing a few. Proxima Centauri imagines someone attempting to have a conversation with a sentient being on a planet orbiting our nearest neighboring star. Ode To A Star refers to a supernova that exploded in 1987. Galactic Bump refers to recently discovered gravity waves. I asked that Herbie Hancock�s Dolphin Dance be included as an instrumental. I love the melody and imagine these beautiful, intelligent beings swimming in the vast sea under the Milky Way. We are also including tunes by Wayne Shorter and Dizzy Gillespie. The medieval pieces are a collection from past performances and classes that I took where the students would read from facsimiles of original manuscripts.

Church of the Incarnation is a landmark building in the middle of Manhattan; an extremely special place, with huge ceilings and beautiful artwork from New York�s Gilded Age.

The acoustics are wonderful anywhere in the space, so the audience will be welcome to either sit and listen or wander about to view the art and experience the immensity of the space itself. The structure is Neo-Gothic, with pointed arches that resemble the hull of a ship. One could imagine the church as a vessel sailing the heavens.
Sounds like a not-to-be-missed show!

Sarah Pillow
Friday, June 9, 6:00 PM
Church of the Incarnation
209 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

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