It’ll be gospel music that drifts from the Amphitheater into the summer air this Sunday — the kind of gospel music that’s unpredictable and completely unrepeatable.
“They never do anything the same way twice,” said Jared Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “They very rarely use actual printed music for anything, because mostly, it’s the most amazing kind of jamming you can think of.”
“They” are the Sanctuary Choir and Dance Troupe from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
At 8 p.m. Sunday, July 21 in the Amp, Jacobsen will present a Sacred Song Service featuring the TUCC’s choir and dance troupe.
The idea to bring musicians and dancers from the Chicago church originated from the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, TUCC’s senior pastor and Chautauqua’s Week Five chaplain.
“When Otis comes to preach, it’s a big deal,” Jacobsen said. “He pretty much has carte blanche to do what he’d like to do. And a couple of years ago, he kind of meekly asked us, ‘Well, can I bring my choir?’ ”
Jacobsen said that while Chautauqua’s choir is “very good,” they “don’t do what (TUCC’s choir) does.”
“(The Sanctuary Choir and Dance Troupe) comes at their own expense, 50 to 75 of them, from Chicago,” he said. “They come up and arrive Saturday, and become part of Chautauqua almost instantly. They’re all over the grounds, just soaking in the place.”
The key difference between programming for musicians at Chautauqua as opposed to TUCC is that, according to Jacobsen, TUCC’s choir and musicians specialize in improvisation.
“Their way of music-making is so utterly different from mine,” he said. “They’re very good at creating ‘something out of nothing’ music, where somebody just sings them a melody and they create a piece around the edges of that. They bring energy, they bring dynamism, they bring enormous style to what they do.”
According to Jacobsen, the last time TUCC’s Sanctuary Choir came to sing in Chautauqua, they brought with them a few dancers to perform as well.
“The whole community at Trinity United Church is an interlocking group of people who are trying out interesting things,” he said. “So now they’ve sort of codified the dance group, and they’re bringing them here as an official thing.”
However, Jacobsen admitted he has “no clue what they’re going to sing and no clue what the dancers are going to do.”
“I just know that it’s going to be terrific,” he said. “I deed over the Sacred Song Service in the evening to them, but I play the bookends at the beginning and the end — the two hymns and then Largo at the end.”
Moss, TUCC’s senior pastor, is a “phenomenon of Chautauqua,” according to Jacobsen.
“His father, Otis Moss, (Jr.), is retired from a very dynamic African American church in Cleveland,” Jacobsen said. “The preaching gene was clearly passed down from father to son. Otis Moss III won a major award as an up-and-coming preacher out of seminary, so we tapped him to preach here.”
Moss’ father worked in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was an associate of Martin Luther King Jr.’s.
“(Otis Moss III) became the minister of a very interesting UCC church in Chicago that has a long history in the African American community as a ‘destination church,’ ” Jacobsen said. “So it’s sort of the equivalent of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church in Atlanta.”
Despite all the uncertainty in this week’s service, Jacobsen said he’s going to step back and watch everything fall into place.
“I’m smart enough to know that I just need to get out of the way,” he said. “They can do whatever they want to do to make the music come alive. It will be amazing.”