New Orleans jazz greats and military marching bands will come together Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church to honor veterans and America’s independence at the 14th annual Patriotic Music Festival.
“Those who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the country, to protect our democratic ideals, why wouldn’t we pay homage and credit those guys?” said trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, a regular performer at the festival. “I would always start off with the national anthem for those individuals who would put everything on the line.”
The Color Guard and a procession of veterans and early American societies, with their flags, will start the three-hour festival in the stately Jackson Avenue church at 3 p.m., followed by nonstop musical performances featuring a variety of genres.
“The diversity and passion with which our Patriotic Fest has been embraced throughout the years by the community has never failed to make it a very stirring and uplifting event,” said Albinas Prizgintas, longtime pianist and organist at Trinity.
Ellis Marsalis, who played in a quartet during his years in the Marines, will take part this year. His son, Delfeayo, who has made this festival a regular on his calendar, is one of the major highlights of the festival. Delfeayo Marsalis and his Uptown Jazz Orchestra will collaborate with the military marching bands, and the end result will be a repertoire of unique sounds not often heard together.
“We will collaborate with one of the military bands,” Delfeayo Marsalis said. “It is always fun for us, because their style is a little different, so it is always a fun experience with the military concert band style mixed in with the street brass band style.”
The event, free and open to the public, allows festivalgoers to experience music that is loosely themed around patriotism, participate in a second-line parade and mingle at the reception in the parish house and patio, where light finger food and refreshments will be served.
Prizgintas said he created this musical community event 14 years ago as an alternative, or an addition, to other people’s Fourth of July celebrations. He said that over the years it has developed and evolved.
To ensure there is a strong and relevant lean towards patriotic music throughout his personal performances at the festival, Prizgintas had to rely on veterans to steer him in the right direction.
“I wasn’t born in this country, although I grew up in New Jersey, so to do a patriotic music festival, I was floundering a bit, and I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track. The older veterans set me straight,” Prizgintas said.
The veterans emphasized the importance of composer John Philip Sousa.
“Sousa was a very important composer,” Prizgintas said. “He doesn’t just do marching music, but he is a substantial musical genius. That was a big awakening for me, to work on music by Sousa, marches and patriotic songs, and other forms of American music.”
As long as Trinity keeps producing this festival to honor veterans and America’s independence, it will continue to attract a variety of musical talent from across New Orleans, Delfeayo Marsalis said.
“I always bring the band, even if I am out of town; I make sure there is a band that will attend,” he said. “The church has such a great history sponsoring excellent concerts and having a real love of music, both New Orleans music and international music.”