Alan Van Zee enjoys singing along with the All Angels Jazz Mass Choir last year

All That Jazz!

The All Angels Jazz Mass Choir performing last year

The All Angels Jazz Mass Choir performing last year

Some of the country’s finest gospel and jazz musicians are set to delight music lovers this weekend at the 10th annual All Angels Jazz Festival. The three-day event includes concerts on Friday (Feb. 5) and Saturday (Feb. 6) at 7 p.m., as well as two masses on Sunday (Feb. 7) at 8:30 and 11 a.m. that will be held at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Lihue.

“The music really drives you and energizes you and lifts you out of your seat,” says Madeleine Hiraga-Nuccio, St. Michael and All Angels’ senior warden.

The gospel-themed music on Friday night will feature The Gospel Divas with piano accompaniment by Philip Hall.

“They’re all just chicken-skin, blow-you-away singers,” says Alan Van Zee, the festival’s director and also musical director of the church. “The music just lifts you up so high. I mean, my goodness.”

Kauai’s own Karen Dickenson of Waimea will be joining the vocal group on Friday.

“She’s kind of this morph of Patti La-Belle and Aretha Franklin,” says Van Zee. “She’s just unbelievable.”

Madeleine Hiraga-Nuccio, Alan Van Zee and Ben Herr, the dynamic trio behind the 10th Annual All Angels Jazz Festival COCO ZINGARO PHOTO

Madeleine Hiraga-Nuccio, Alan Van Zee and Ben Herr, the dynamic trio behind the 10th Annual All Angels Jazz Festival COCO ZINGARO PHOTO

On Saturday, the same level of talent can be expected from headliner Greta Matassa, who is touted as one of the country’s premier jazz vocalists. She will be joined by Matt Lemmler, who will open the eve with his classic New Orleans-style tunes.

The All Angels Jazz Mass Choir also will put its artistic skill into action on Sunday during the two gospeland jazz-themed masses where the audience will be encouraged to participate.

“We have people across the spectrum come every single year,” says Van Zee, noting that attendees don’t have to be religious or of a particular faith to enjoy the music. “Absolutely everyone is welcome.”

What makes the all-encompassing event so unique is the diversity of performers — something kamaaina don’t regularly get to experience.

“We already have outstanding music on the island, but this gives folks here on Kauai an opportunity to get exposed to other artists,” says Van Zee.

The inaugural festival was launched by the church’s former priest, Father William Miller, in 2006. The jazz aficionado regularly collaborated with musicians and aspired to bring people together through song. His plan worked because the festival continues to draw bigger crowds every year. In fact, Ben Herr, the festival’s producer, says audience growth is the only thing that’s changed throughout the years. He remembers the first year’s goal was to get 200 people to attend each concert, now they have to “squeeze in” more than 300 every performance, with a total of more than 1,000 in attendance last year.

What Herr finds “most incredible” about the festival, aside from the caliber of talent that remains “superb,” is the venue.

“Because it’s totally intimate,” he says.

Hiraga-Nuccio, who is the branch chief for the state Department of Health’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division, is thankful for professional musicians like Herr and Van Zee who help make the festival possible every year.

“One of the basic foundations for this parish is the music,” she says. “The folks up there on the stage and everyone who’s making this happen have collectively touched so many people with music, with the feeling of being welcomed. Whatever it is that takes people over the top in terms of music and entertainment, I watch it happen here year after year.”

“Music has always been really important here,” agrees Van Zee, who earned a degree in music from Central College in Iowa. “There’s no way that anything St. Michael’s would do around music would be anything but extraordinary.”

When all is said and done, what Van Zee, who owns Hawaiian Island Juice, enjoys most is hearing positive feedback from attendees.

“We just sort of look and say, ‘We pulled this off, we actually did this — wow,'” he says. “It’s a world-class event, honestly, on little Kauai — us humble little folks, we did it. Somehow we did it.”

Tickets for Friday and Saturday cost $55 in advance, $65 at the door, and include pupus and drinks. Sunday Masses are free of charge and also include food. VIP tickets are available that include front-row seating as well as a T-shirt, autographed poster and a meet-and-greet reception with the artists. To order tickets or for more information, visit stmichaels-kauai.org or call 245-3796.

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