Rev. Will Sparks is organizing a three-month jazz music experiment for Northwood United Church called Jazz Vespers in the Valley: Music for the Soul. The first show is this Sunday at 4 p.m.

God, and all that jazz

Northwood United Church hosts music for the soul in six Sunday vespers.

Rev. Will Sparks can’t help but hum Blue Skies as he prepares to leave Northwood United Church for a meeting.

He’s just laid out his plans for the next several weeks: Jazz music for the soul.

Starting Feb. 12, musicians will entertain worshippers and music aficionados during jazz vespers – vesper being a late afternoon or early evening prayer – at 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Sunday of each month until the end of April.

The six-session “experiment,” as Sparks calls it, is titled Jazz Vespers in the Valley: Music for the Soul.

“We’re here to be a place for people to come to worship and celebrate… to connect with their soul. And I think jazz vespers do that,” he says.

The concept originated in New York City in 1965.

The late Rev. John Garcia Gensel, a minister connected with the jazz scene, started an evening service for musicians who couldn’t make it for Sunday morning services after playing late Saturday night engagements.

“He watched how jazz musicians listen with an open heart and play what the spirit brings them,” explains Sparks. “He thought, this and worship go together.”

The idea spread to other U.S. churches, and has made it as far as Vancouver, where jazz vespers have taken place for years at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church on Burrard and Nelson Streets.

The idea to bring it to the Fleetwood church was suggested by Gerry Hall, a member of the Northwood congregation, who is working feverishly to book the rest of the lineup.

The first act will be jazz vocal improviser and Juno Award nominee Jennifer Scott (, who was recently named “pick of the week” by the L.A. Times.

“She is a virtuoso, one of Canada’s finest vocal jazz artists,” says an enthusiastic Sparks. “I’ve very excited about having her here and I hope that the community responds.”

The first jazz vesper takes place Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. at Northwood United Church, 8855 156 St. Admission is by donation.

For more information, call 604-581-8454 or visit

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