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For one evening each month, the auditorium of the Congress Heights United Methodist Church becomes a candle-lit nightclub.
To transform the spacewhich is normally used as a cafeteria by the church’s charter school and day-care centerinto the Jazzspiration Cafe, volunteers stack the kid-sized furniture along the walls, set up tables draped with red and blue cloths, and prepare for the stylings of Second Coming, a sextet whose music incorporates elements of jazz, blues, gospel, New Age, funk, and classical traditions.
Jazzspiration is the brainchild of Dr. Phenius P.D. Vincent Buyck Sr., Second Coming’s director and co-founder with bassist James E. Mills. Buyck, 70, who composes the band’s music and lyrics, plays piano, and sings lead vocals, came up with the idea while serving with Congress Heights’ pastor, Sandra Green, on the National Best Practices Committee, established under the Clinton administration to study effective outreach programs by churches, hospitals, and other community-service organizations. Proceeds from Jazzspirationnow almost a year runningare used to benefit those who cannot afford medical services and to address drug addiction, an ongoing problem in the church’s Anacostia neighborhood.
Buyck, a D.C. resident for more than 30 years, studied music as part of his undergraduate work at South Carolina State College. When he began his medical education at Massachusetts’ Tufts University in the ’50s, he became acquainted with Quincy Jones and other students at the Berklee College of Music and was inspired by Marty Schultz, a German organist whose compositions fused classical and jazz. While living in Boston, Buyck founded the first interracial gospel choir, an ensemble composed of black, Italian, and Irish singers that blended African-American church music with European classical influences. He started Second Coming in D.C. in 1997; the sextet’s goal, he says, is “to revive the truth and fullness of music. The band believes in originality and pure musicianship.”
Diane Mills, wife of Second Coming’s bassist, coordinates the monthly event; her duties include printing tickets, obtaining door prizes, and purchasing and cooking food, along with the other musicians’ wives. “We’re trying to get people more involved with the neighborhood,” she says. “The church is located in a depressed area, and this is one way we can do something positive for the community. The Jazzspiration Cafe gives people an opportunity to come out and enjoy a group that celebrates all kinds of music. When they feel inspired, there’s nothing to prevent them from getting up and dancing. No matter how people feel when they arrive, they always leave with smiles on their faces.” Joel E. Siegel
This month’s Jazzspiration Cafe will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Congress Heights United Methodist Church, 421 Alabama Ave. SE. For more information, call (202) 829-4452 or (202) 857-9725.