Who knew that the Wise Men could tap dance?
One of them, anyway.
Jeffry Foote’s rapid-fire tap routine was one of many pleasant surprises in Bending Towards the Light, A Jazz Nativity at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown on Sunday night.
Two dancers, three choirs, three soloists and a nine-piece jazz ensemble added up to a swinging interpretation of the Christmas story.
All of these moving parts were deftly interwoven by conductor Matt Webb; the church music director even managed a dress rehearsal during Saturday’s snowstorm.
Bending Towards the Light was written in the mid-1980s and it’s been a holiday favorite ever since at jazz clubs like B.B. King’s. Composer Anne Phillips attended Sunday’s performance in Morristown.
“I want to tell you, this was an absolutely beautiful production,” Anne told a large, cheering audience. “And it was thrilling to sit back there and not have to do the work!”
Photos by Hal Crosthwaite and Kevin Coughlin. Click icon for captions.
The jazz ensemble was first-rate. Trumpeter Christian McIvor flew in from North Carolina, just ahead of the storm. The band was coordinated by drummer Steve Hess, a church member.
Steve’s daughter, singer Anna Hess, a Morristown High School freshman, soloed, as did Hanna Neil from the Frelinghuysen Middle School (playing Mary, no less) and voice instructor Elise Figa, always easy on the ears. Student Mollie Kiel contributed an interpretive dance number as well.
And then there was the aptly named Mr. Foote, a 36-year-old Morristown native who dances with the NJ Tap Ensemble.
You can catch him again on New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris County. Jeffry will be dancing with fellow Tap Ensemble soloist Maurice Chestnut at Morristown High School, at 9:45 pm and 10:45 pm.