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Mary Lou Williams Commemorated On 100th Birthday At Church of St. Francis Xavier 5/8

The newly restored Church of St. Francis Xavier and the Mary Lou Williams Foundation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the First Lady of Jazz with a concert to benefit Xavier Mission outreach programs including the homeless shelter and soup kitchen. WBGO Jazz 88.3FM radio host Rob Crocker will emcee the celebration taking place on Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:30pm. The concert will serve as the first of many events marking the church's recent restoration. The lineup will include: renowned jazz pianist Aaron Diehl with his trio, including special guest Victor Goines on saxophone and clarinet; Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Marion Felder on drums; Laurel Massé, founding member of the vocal group Manhattan Transfer and a 40-voice choir directed by John Uehlein, Music Director at the Church of St. Francis Xavier. Mr. Diehl was hailed by The New York Times as a "revelation" and by the Chicago Tribune as "the most promising discovery that [Wynton] Marsalis has made since Eric Reed."

Advance tickets ($40 Premium, $20 General, $10 Student with ID) may be purchased at a reduced rate online at Tickets will also be available at the door that evening ($50 Premium, $30 General, $15 Student with ID).

About Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger who worked with music greats Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Cecil Taylor and collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, among others. In 1957, she converted to Catholicism and began composing many spiritual works including "Music for Peace," "Black Christ of the Andes" and "Praise the Lord." "Mary Lou took her religious instructions at St. Francis Xavier, so it's a special place for her to be commemorated," said former manager and current Executive Director of her foundation, Rev. Peter O'Brien, S.J.

In March 1969, Msgr. Joseph Gremillion, secretary of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, commissioned Williams to write a Mass using approved liturgical texts for the Votive Mass for Peace. She called this "Music for Peace." Williams wrote two choral pieces in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after his assassination, which were recorded at The Vatican Radio. The entire composition was later adapted for Alvin Ailey's full-length ballet and simply called "Mary Lou's Mass." Newsweek called the piece "an encyclopedia of black music, richly represented from spirituals to bop to rock."

About Xavier Mission
The event will benefit Xavier Mission, the community outreach program of the Church of St. Francis Xavier. The Mission has provided vital assistance to New York City's neediest for more than a quarter of a century serving more than 1 million meals at its Welcome Table soup kitchen. It also provides guests with multiple services, including free chiropractic adjustments; HIV/AIDS screening; assistance with entitlement benefits; 15 beds for homeless men every night of the week; a food pantry; a clothing room; and the Life-Skills Training & Empowerment program for the homeless.

About St. Francis Xavier
St. Francis Xavier has been the spiritual home for musicians and composers in New York for nearly 130 years. The history of the church is one rich in spiritual, cultural and historical significance. Enrico Caruso delighted with his soaring tenor voice; Pietro Yon, the Church's early music director, created the well known Christmas hymn "Gesu Bambino;" Louis Tiffany and Thomas Merton worshipped; and royalty paid their respects at the church.

The Church of St. Francis Xavier is located at 46 West 16th Street near 6th Avenue and is wheelchair accessible at 55 West 15th Street. For more information visit

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