|Dear faithful people of Saint Peter's Church:
Just before last Wednesday's Mass of the Resurrection and inurnment liturgy, Pastor Stahler and I received a visitor who told as that one of our members, Sarah McLawler, had died earlier that day at Amsterdam Nursing Home where she had been a resident for the past two years. Sarah was 91 years old.
Sarah was a long-time member of our jazz community and an active participant in life at Saint Peter's Church. Sarah was instantly recognizable with her color dresses and large matching hat. Although she regularly played organ at other churches, over the past ten years she regularly attended jazz vespers and always received holy communion at our jazz mass. She continued receiving communion every time I visited her at Amsterdam House. She was a faithful and exemplary Christian. Although she was a well-known musician in her own right, Sarah was also instrumental in advocating for the rights of women jazz musicians and regularly performed with an outstanding group of jazz musicians who formed Les Femmes Jazz.
The following biography is by Richard Skelly and can be found on the All Music website (www.allmusic.com).
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Hammond B-3 organist Sarah McLawler was raised in the church with gospel music. She studied organ at an Indiana Conservatory. Influenced heavily by the music of the big bands.
McLawler used to sneak into clubs in Indianapolis to hear Lucky Millinder's big band. She ended up going on the road with the bandleader, and later formed an ahead-of-its-time all-woman band, the Syn-Co-Ettes. They spent some time as a house band at Chicago's Savoy Club.
After meeting Richard Otto, a classical violinist who liked to play jazz, at a residency at a Brooklyn club, she married him and the two spent years touring and recording together. As fixtures on the New York jazz scene in the 1950s, they became friends with the likes of Milt Jackson, Errol Garner, Dinah Washington, Cab Calloway, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr. and others. Washingtonwas so taken with her playing, she once offered to be her manager.
McLawler's singles for the King and Brunswick labels, recorded in the 1950s, are now collectors' items, and they include sides like "I Can't Stop Loving You" "Love, Sweet Love," both for King, as well as "Red Light" "Tipping In" "Let's Get the Party Rocking" and "Blue Room." Her recordings with violinist Ottoinclude "Somehow," "Yesterday" "Body & Soul" for Brunswick, and "Babe in the Woods" "Relax, Miss Frisky" "Flamingo" "Canadian Sunset" and "At the Break of Day" for Vee-Jay.
Sarah McLawler-Kimes' funeral service will be held on Wednesday, September 20 at 11:00 a.m. at Benta's Funeral Home, 630 Saint Nicholas Avenue, New York. Visitation begins at 10:00 a.m. that morning. Sarah will be buried beside her husband at Calverton National Cemetery. A memorial service for Sarah will be planned at Saint Peter's Church in the coming months.
Please join me in commending Sarah to God's wide embrace.
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Sarah. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen
Please pray for one another too.
O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen
Rest eternal grant her, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon her.
Peace and Courage,
Amandus J. Derr