Magnolia – A long-lasting servant in the service of New Orleans Jazz
For Magnolia, a jazz band that has played New Orleans Jazz for 39 years, to travel to New Orleans is a regular occurrence. The band was formed when Bonsak Schieldrop, the band’s drummer for 27 years, invited the band for a trip to New Orleans in 1978. Since then, Magnolia has had strong ties to New Orleans, having performed with a number of famous New Orleans musicians, most notably Thaïs Clark, Lillian Bouttè, Juanita Brooks and “Big Al” Carson. Their instrumental line-up, with brass instruments, a banjo, a saxophone and a clarinet is typical of New Orleans Jazz, which often aims to incorporate instruments from several musical directions at once. This trip to New Orleans included two concerts in addition to the one given at the Seamen’s Church. Because they give a concert in every local Seamen’s Church whenever they’re abroad, Magnolia is sometimes nicknamed “the Jazzband of the Seamen’s Church”. Magnolia was also reputedly the first band to play Jazz in a Norwegian Church.
The Seamen’s Church in New Orleans
The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in New Orleans was established in 1906, then as a supplement to the existing Seamen’s Church in Pensacola. As Norwegian seamen and traders frequently visited New Orleans, the Church’s attendance and importance grew steadily. It became the main station for the Seamen’s church in 1926, and hired its own priest. Today, Houston has become the main port in the Gulf of Mexico. The Norwegian visitors to New Orleans have less of a maritime character than before, but the Church is still active in the Scandinavian community. Every first Sunday of the month, the Seamen’s Church has a jazz service.
The Norwegian Seamen’s Church invited to Jazz Friday May 4., as a variation of the normal Sunday Jazz Service. This monthly event seeks to gather Scandinavian Jazz enthusiasts from all ages, as well as provide a nice meeting place for the community. The event was opened informally in the garden area of the Church, as Magnolia played several instrumental songs for the lounging audience. As the band paused, the audience enjoyed a lottery and some cakes and coffee. When the Band resumed playing, this time inside the Church and with Topsy Chapman on lead vocal, all traces of informality were gone. As each solo was accompanied by enthusiastic clapping, the Band gave a great performance, mixing New Orleans Jazz with Norwegian Folk music. At the very end of the concert, the audience gave a standing ovation, forcing the band back on stage for an encore. Afterwards, Seamen’s Church Pastor Erland Grøtberg thanked everyone for participating and welcomed all back for the next Jazz Friday. Several CDs were sold, cake was consumed, and a Seamen’s Church tradition was upheld in an enthusiastic setting.