Premiering on September 8, 1971 for the inauguration of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a fully orchestrated and staged pageant production, the MASS was a commission of Jacqueline Kennedy.
The eclecticism of MASS’s music reflects the multifaceted nature of Bernstein’s career, with blues, rock, gospel, folk, Broadway and jazz idioms appearing side by side with 12-tone serialism, symphonic marches, solemn hymns, Middle Eastern dances, orchestral meditations, and lush chorales, all united in a single dramatic event with recurring musical motifs. Bernstein uses the uninhibitedly tonal rock ‘n’ roll of a street chorus to challenge the dogmatic, atonal music of the Catholic Church; ultimately, the musical argument is resolved with a glorious, tonal chorale (“Almighty Father”) sung by the entire company.
Although very heavily opposed to the work in 1971, the Catholic Church seemed to have a change of heart about the liturgical text when, in 2000, Pope John Paul II requested a performance of the work at the Vatican.
The St. Louis Wind Symphony is excited to be preparing Michael Sweeney’s arrangement of “Suite from MASS” for Brass Quintet and Concert Band by Leonard Bernstein for our November 11th concert! We sincerely hope to see you there!