The Kamloops Jazz Vespers, Enriching Worship With Jazz


‘Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones recently described playing a beautiful cymbal as like having a conversation with it. There is such a deep and mysterious beauty attached to playing music.’ -RG

Kamloops man, Rob Gretsinger, has been drumming for 34 years.  He grew up playing different instruments and singing with his family.  He’s played in many bands and even recorded CD’s.  Currently he is the drummer for a small, talented group called the Kamloops Jazz Vespers.

‘Vespers’ means ‘evening prayer service’. An important element of the Vespers service is that it is not a performance, rather it is an offering. There is an interplay between the sermon and the music.

The Kamloops Jazz Vespers first started in 2015, their inspiration taken from a Jazz Vespers service at St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church in Vancouver.

The core group of four musicians bring a mass of musical talents together to provide an experience that can inspire and work with the readings and reflections the Reverend Bruce Comrie offers at the Kamloops United Church.

I asked three members of the group to talk about the spiritual significance behind their playing at these services:
“The spiritual significance for myself with the Vespers is that I find drumming to be a meditative experience in many situations. Without trying to sound too ‘spacey’, I love to get lost in the ‘texture’ of the sounds that I’m playing. It is very difficult to understand.

Playing in a band, and in particular jazz, is really like a conversation. Hopefully, if I’m sensitive, I will know when to ‘speak’ and when to give room for other musicians to ‘speak’. The biggest part of playing music for me is ‘listening’. I offer my little meditative section with some gongs or singing bowls each time. Gongs are such rich, wonderful instruments that really cater to meditative purposes.

I feel my level of technique has occasionally been limited but I try to bring a lot of ‘texture’ to bridge the gap. It just happens that the ‘texture’ my equipment provides seems to facilitate a very spiritual, meditative feeling for me. I hope it translates to the listener.” – Rob Gretsinger


“In my opinion, an important component of spirituality is connectedness – the state of feeling connected with one’s emotional self, others, and a higher power. When I sing with the Jazz Vespers, I not only feel an emotional connection to the song I am singing, but I feel a connection with the other musicians, members of the audience, and a power greater than myself.” – Natalie Paul, guest vocalist


“That is a tough question. Playing music has always had a huge impact on me in every form, Jazz especially. Jazz is music based on improvisation and freedom. Being able to express this, with spiritual intent and Bruce’s teaching, has taught me a lot. The music and teachings bring all of us closer to what we are looking for in our lives and in the church.” -Alexander Ward, Bassist


The musicians are hoping to start up the Vespers services again in the fall of 2019. The services are open to all. They are quite short and aim to provide a really nice balance between a spoken reflection and jazz music.


‘There is a rich history within jazz of artists combining spiritual themes with jazz music. It is a great honor to play jazz in a context that, for me, pays tribute to so many great legends. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.’-RG


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