Aware that the child in each of us longs for a heart-felt Chrismas pageant each year, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature a more than sentimental, truly spiritual song, Bending Towards the Light, music from Bob Kindred and lyrics from Anne Phillips and Henry Timm from Anne Phillips’ production Bending Towards the Light…A Jazz Nativity. Splendid stained glass windows from Fox Valley and Cudahy Catholic parishes in Wisconsin visualize the lyrics that retell the wondrous Christmas story of Jesus’ birth.
BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT has an interesting history. In 1985 the Rev John Garcia Gensel of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at CityCorp in New York asked me to write a jazz version of the traditional Christmas pageant. It was performed there that Christmas. The next year we moved the show to a larger space and began doing it annually at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Park Ave. Then, literally, one morning I woke up and said to my husband, tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred, “That song of yours, “Bending Towards the Light” THAT belongs in The Jazz Nativity!” He had written the song for a children’s show at a boy’s camp, Camp Dudley in the Adirondacks, The show was “Gamines” about the street children of Bogotá, Columbia and the song was sung by the Catholic priest who had formed a village for the homeless boys. The children were “Bending Towards the Light”. So, with the permission of the original lyricist I went to work on writing a Christmas lyric. We put it into the show that year and the minute we heard it in that context we knew that “Bending Towards the Light” was the title of the show. In the show it is sung by a boy soprano who plays the role of a shepherd boy and when he hits the high a flat on “the light” there’s not a dry eye in the house.
We have since performed The Jazz Nativity in many different locations from Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln center to the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. For the past three years we have been doing it at the famed jazz club, Birdland. This year we will have seven performances there from Dec. 21-25. Believe it or not, we do two shows a day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at 5 & 8 pm! Full houses! Only in New York! -Anne Phillips
Anne Phillips, singer, composer, arranger, conductor, producer, has been active in almost every area of the music business. She began her career as a sing/pianist in clubs such as No. 1 Fifth Avenue, on television with the Ray Charles Singers, and on hundreds of recording sessions with such artists as Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Mahalia Jackson. As a soloist, her classic album, Born to Be Blue, has recently been released to rave reviews. On her most recent CD, Ballet Time, she sings with such old friends as Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland.
Anne is widely known in the industry as the writer/arranger/producer of many national commercials among them Taste That Beats The Others Cold for Pepsi Cola which she arranged and produced for such rock stars as the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas. Some of her memorable melodies won her Cleo, Pen and Ink and Cannes Film Festival awards. Her show Bending Towards the Light…A Jazz Nativity, the Christmas story told through the medium of jazz, has starred such greats as Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton and Tito Puente and has become a “a new New York Christmas tradition.” (New York Magazine)
Her musical Damn Everything But the Circus, book by Stephanie Braxton, music and lyrics by Anne Phillips is nearing a New York production. Her children’s musical, The Great Grey Ghost of Old Spook Lane, is performed around the country, her Easter Mass, Sing, For the Lord Has Risen, was given its debut performance at St. Patrick Cathedral; A Spark of Faith, a group of twelve songs connected by New Testament scripture, has played throughout the east coast, and another recent work What Are We Doing To Our World? had a showcase production at The Players Club this fall. In order to introduce inner-city children to the Great American Song, Anne and her husband, jazz saxophonist Bob Kindred, have begun Children’s Jazz Choirs through their not-for-profit organization, Kindred Spirits. Anne has been a National Trustee of NARAS, the Recording Academy, was on the faculty of the NYU Jazz Department and is a recipient of the Heart of Gold Award from the Best Friends Foundation for her work with her Children’s Jazz Choirs.
BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT
Music by Bob Kindred
Lyrics by Anne Phillips & Henry Timm
O’er the hills of Bethlehem
In the dark of night
Shimmering and glimmering
A shiny wond’rous light
All the grass and trees that grow
Everything in sight
Is shimmering and glimmering
And BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT
On the road to Bethlehem
Open to the sky we are
Open to the tender light
Of sun and moon and star
Look how it shines o’er the manger
Look how the darkness has waned
Replaced by the light,
The blessing, the miracle
And on this night in Bethlehem
On this holy night
We may see the world begin
A BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT